As 2022 stretches out in front of us, we know that there are challenges aplenty up ahead, especially with such a volatile economic climate to navigate. We should though feel confident that we have real opportunities to shape our organisations and develop our people, as leaders who have experience of fluctuating economic contexts and the rapid pace of change happening all around us.
It’s not always easy to feel that confidence of course, when faced with so much uncertainty, and with so many people looking for you to show leadership. The key points below are here to remind us of the foundations of our leadership success. Prioritising them, and getting them right, will lay the groundwork for the challenges ahead, and allow us to focus on the complexities of our own individual circumstances.
It’s surprising how many organisations and people still seem to have an issue delivering regular and open communications to their various audiences. Everyone seems to talk about it, to acknowledge how important it is to be clear and confident with their core messages, yet consistently many fall short.
The most common reason for this is people holding back information for too long, waiting until they have the whole picture, until they can share more substance, for fear of the questions which may come back. What happens time after time then is that audiences disconnect for being left in the dark, and the void is filled by half-baked perspectives, ill-informed messages and rumours which serve a different objective.
Too often leaders seem to think that they’re required to be working all hours, to be involved in the minutiae of their organisation, and to know the detail of every project, initiative, challenge, opportunity across their business.
Part of being a good leader is having a team around you who you have confidence in, share a mutual respect with, and to whom you’re comfortable delegating projects, tasks and responsibility. For you as a leader, delegating effectively allows you to focus on a manageable set of priorities, to spend your time on strategic development rather than operational management. Empowering your team and giving them scope to join you in executing your objectives is motivating for them and supportive for you.
Set clear expectations
There are many ways to define success, but at its heart it’s about having objectives and meeting expectations. When we set out to do something we are most likely to succeed if we know what our objective is and what is expected of us. People feel more motivated and encouraged if they have a sense that they can achieve what’s expected of them, so those expectations need to be shared and to be clear.
It is a core part of a leaders role to set clear expectations, so that everyone knows what they need to do, to achieve, to deliver – because ultimately everyone wants to be, and feel, successful in what they do.
Deliver on promises
and don’t make promises you can’t keep.
A lot is asked of leaders, being seen as the people who can make things happen, or allow things to happen, or indeed to prevent things from happening. It may be tempting to be accommodating and agreeable with everyone, avoiding conflict and striving to be liked. That’s an understandable aim but not realistic. It’s more important to only make promises you can actually keep, and to decline to commit to anything which you can’t be confident of delivering.
A core part of building trust in your leadership is being transparent, and that includes having the confidence to state what you can’t do as much as what you can.
It’s really important that those around you are comfortable sharing idea and opinions with you. You can’t operate effectively in a vacuum and the ideas which drive your organisation will come from a variety of sources. One key aspect of your behaviour which will encourage your team to be open and honest with you is that you behave consistently.
Part of your role is creating a positive and collaborative organisational culture, and you can’t do that by being erratic, volatile, inconsistent. That would create uncertainty, nervousness, fear even, which inhibits the sharing of ideas and opinions, or of the critique required to build a successful, resilient and sustainable organisation.
Being consistent allows people to learn how best to present their perspectives, how to carry their messages, how to input and influence.
And do remember, being consistent is not the same as being rigid, there’s plenty of scope to be flexible and evolving ideas while behaving consistently.
Finally, don’t stop making decisions even in these uncertain times. If we stop making decisions, or we delay them, we stop showing leadership. Decision-making is a vital part of our role as leaders, and taking those decisions in timely fashion gives our teams confidence, in the decisions themselves and in us as leaders. Keep your decisions clear and bold, share the reasoning behind them as necessary, and stand by them, even if you choose to change them down the line.
I hope these reflections have been helpful. We’re operating in quite an extreme environment. It doesn’t matter whether your own organisation is seeking to drive change, to stabilise after a period of turmoil, or to just weather the storm; keeping these fundamentals in mind will stand us in good stead as we lead our organisations through the months ahead.