Are you prepared to lead into the future?
Most leaders are not.
They experience increasing pressure as they attempt to cover all the bases and feel unsettled about what might be coming next.
If that is you, please stay with me on this, because the volatility and complexity of change in the business world is only growing.
If you want to make sure you are prepared to lead into the future, you must make three shifts right now to navigate effectively through change, and if you don’t take quick action on these, your leadership will soon be reaching its expiration date.
In a previous article, we talked about the first of three necessary shifts to do so: sharpening your emotional intelligence to increase your relational skills. If you missed this, catch up here.
Now, on to the second of the three necessary shifts you need to make: 360° leadership development.
There is a great buzz about the fact that to really grow in your leadership, you must work on both horizontal and vertical development to meet a complex world. And this is true.
Horizontal development refers to increasing in knowledge, skills and competencies. We can measure this through leadership assessments, 360° feedback processes, and similar means. Companies invest in tremendous amounts of money to assess, measure, and hold people accountable to these, and this is necessary.
But in the last few years, we recognized that was no longer enough. We discovered that leaders who possessed the knowledge, skills, and competencies required to conduct business, were now experiencing an inability to meet the changing demands.
The world was changing – and their leadership was not.
Albert Einstein once said, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”
To expand on this truth, it has become clear that, “We can’t lead an organization of the future effectively by using the same kind of approaches we have used to lead the organization of today.” – Patti Cotton
To meet this problem, the leadership development world recognized the need for vertical development. Vertical development refers to the growth in a person’s thinking capability. It’s about how you think – how complex, strategic, interdependent, and systemic you are able to sift through challenges and make decisions. For more on this, read the white paper “Vertical Leadership Development-Part I” by Nick Petrie, Center for Creative Leadership.
“At last!” said the leadership development world. “We have now covered how to be more agile and complete in approaching change. We can rest easy!” Top executive coaches focused on the mindset shifts necessary to cultivate this, and we saw a lot of progress.
But a giant puzzle piece was missing and tragically continued to reveal itself in significant areas of the business world.
Here’s a small and partial list of contemporary business leaders who have run companies worth billions. They possess both horizontal and vertical development and, for quite a while, have been considered thought leaders ahead of the pack.
- Elizabeth Holmes, former CEO, Theranos
- Martin Winterkorn, former president of Volkswagen
- Martin Shkreli, former CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals
- Hisao Tinaka, former president of Toshiba
These people had the knowledge and competencies to run the organization. They developed the mindset shifts needed to develop their thinking capabilities so that they could meet change and future challenges. They were capable, high-performing, and they produced incredible results.
But the glaring piece that was missing in all cases – and the reason for their downfall – was that they were missing the third part of the 360° leadership equation: Character.
Character is a matter of trust.
And without trust, you won’t get far – at least, not for the long game.
If you are in this to win, you must not neglect your leadership character.
The people in the above list all showed a flawed or compromised character. The result has been that they have suffered personal leadership downfall, in some cases they are or have been under investigation with threatening jail time, and their respective organizations were either heavily fined, sold, or folded.
Now I am not suggesting that you should compare yourself to these people in any way – I’ve selected these people to make a point. However, I am proposing that you check to make sure that your own character is well-sharpened to support your leadership.
Can you deliver on the following traits consistently? Are they truly a part of you and the way you lead?
Five Key Leadership Character Traits:
- Integrity – Are you consistent and congruent in relating to others so that they know what they can expect from you, know that they can count on you?
- Respect – Do you respect yourself and others equally in your decisions and actions?
- Intent – Do you hold others in positive regard and with positive intent, so that your pre-assumptions and biases don’t curtail best thinking?
- Transparency – Are you authentic in your communications? Forthright in the way you confront conflict and resolve it? Candid in critical conversations so that you are tough on issues and tender on people?
- Connection – Do you genuinely desire to connect well with others – and are you able to do this successfully?
Without one of these, your leadership is headed toward its expiration date. Because character is the missing piece to the complete leadership picture; the 360° leadership equation.
In the short term, you and others may not notice the effects of a compromised or weak character. But in the long run, missing this will bring down not only your ability to lead, but is quite capable of bringing an entire organization to its knees, as we have seen.
What specific trait within your character needs attention? And if you don’t know, who among your trusted colleagues can help identify this? I look forward to your feedback.
DO OTHERS REALLY TRUST YOU?
Learn the two vital parts to trust and how they can help you become a more highly effective leader.
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Patti Cotton helps executives optimize their effectiveness in leading self, others, and the enterprise. Her areas of focus include confidence, leadership style, executive presence, effective communication, succession planning, and masterful execution. With over 25 years of leadership experience, both stateside and abroad, Patti works with individuals, teams, and organizations across industries, providing executive consulting, leadership development, succession planning, change management, and conflict resolution. She is also an experienced Fortune 500 speaker. For more information on how Patti Cotton can help you and your organization, click here.