Leading through change and ambiguity in 2022: Key leadership qualities
The importance of a leader’s ability to navigate through disruption has been emphatically confirmed by events of the last two years.
It’s hastened a shift in L&D priorities: the leadership qualities that may well have returned satisfactory results in more settled times are no match for the vision and resilience required to act in imperfect conditions and to survive – and thrive – in ambiguity.
To ready their organisations for what’s happening now, as well as what may lie ahead, good leaders need the skills to act on limited and incomplete data and must also become more comfortable with the concept of not knowing. Having the strength to sit with this ambiguity before acting, even when the outlook is unclear, is likely to be key to endurance and growth and in the coming months and years. Let’s explore key leadership qualities:
Charting a steady path through an unpredictable landscape requires a powerful combination of self-awareness, empathy and integrity – qualities often styled as ‘conscious leadership’.
Put simply, the conscious leader is less focused on accomplishing tasks and more concerned with creating and enabling the processes that guide, engage and equip teams for successful collaboration in any commercial climate.
As complexity becomes commonplace, leaders have to be prepared to reflect critically on their own actions, challenge assumptions and examine obstacles from multiple viewpoints. So, what qualities will set inspirational leaders apart from their peers, giving their organisations the best chance of success in 2022?
The opportunities that emerge from uncertainty may provide a platform for doing things differently – perhaps, even, for doing them better. With our brains hardwired to favour the familiar and to view uncertainty as a threat, it can be profoundly liberating for leaders to view the discomfort that arises from disruption as an aid to growth, rather than a portent of doom. Shifting from a ‘knowing’ to a ‘learning’ mindset that could be the key that unlocks an organisation’s true potential.
Leading through change takes a heavy toll on mental energy and physical stamina. Good leaders must often push beyond their own and others’ expectations, demonstrating tenacity and determination as they challenge orthodoxies and drive improvements. Confidence and courage are part of the equation, for sure, but so too is the ability to draw on the reserves of resilience that will underpin endurance and prevent burn-out.
In a period of flux, change is the only constant. To thrive in ambiguity means adopting a more fluid leadership style – one that can effortlessly pivot when new developments demand a different perspective. By modelling agility, leaders will also encourage a more flexible approach across an organisation’s workforce, quickly becoming part of its corporate identity.
Going it alone isn’t the smart option when your business is facing existential challenges. Greater complexity calls for more diverse perspectives. But harmonious collaborations only happen when leaders forge close connections with peers and colleagues, elevating others’ voices and insights, at the same time empowering individuals and teams to do their very best work.
Every member of an organisation’s workforce should believe that their contribution is important – and valued. People who are supported and empowered via a clear and accessible programme of mentoring and self-development are more likely to be happy, healthy and creative in their work, resulting in deeper engagement and leading to opportunities for increased innovation.
If we’ve learned anything from recent events, it’s that leaders must embody integrity if they hope to inspire loyalty. Setting a good example is important – but it’s not enough; a leader’s sense of integrity should flow through the company culture, influencing its workforce and guiding its actions, internally and externally. By amplifying honesty and transparency through their business practices and processes, leaders can show themselves to be trustworthy, in turn encouraging and empowering others to act with equal integrity.
Having a highly developed sense of purpose isn’t uncommon among company leaders. But anchoring purpose at the heart of the business while mapping a route through an uncertain landscape requires vision and intention. Having a clear and inspiring vision – for the short, medium and long term – doesn’t just give leaders their ‘why’, it also acts as a beacon to inspire and motivate others.
We can no longer rely on old hierarchies to solve new problems, but we can harness the power of small changes to drive tectonic shifts in performance as their forces ripple across our organisations and beyond.
As leaders look to develop and deepen their skills to face future challenges with greater confidence, the need for targeted L&D is crucial. Embracing a higher purpose, modelling openness and empathy while acting with integrity will not only underpin growth and profitability but will give their organisations a north star that inspires and empowers others to succeed.
If you’d like to know more about how qpeople can support you on your leadership journey, please get in touch.