The challenge in moving forward
Complexity, ever-increasing speed of change, ongoing disruption, and the challenge of implementing new technology have had an indelible impact on the first two decades of this century. That said, when it comes to implementation, they carry a subtext that we can no longer ignore. The 20th century organisation is a very blunt instrument with which to confront the challenge of this century. Moreover, when we add the human dimension a pandemic brings into sharp focus, it becomes patently obvious that moving forward is about far more than digitalisation, an improved supply chain and remote employment.
To come out of this crisis stronger means, paradoxically, drawing on a behavioural investment that has its origins in our hunter-gatherer past; a capability that business schools don't teach and few recruiters set as a priority. The very core of character that has, all-too-often, been described as "the soft side of leadership". Inaccurately portrayed, one should add, because – based on how effectively they are practiced – these soft skills are clearly, pretty hard.
Head, hand, heart, spirit
As a result of the tragedy, trauma and mental health issues that define this crisis, it is clear that there has been a significant emotional shift in how many executives now view "leadership". "Leadership balance" implies the need to build capability that moves beyond – essential though they are – a winning strategy and driving results into the business. That is to say, the need not only to employ the head and empower the hand – but to also engage the heart and enrich the spirit.
Of course, there is not much in life that is new. Aristotle believed that there are two virtues – intellectual and moral. Through his writing, he tells us that intellectual virtue is a combination of birth and teaching. Moral virtue, meanwhile, being dependent upon our nature and the habits we develop and adhere to. A more modern interpretation would view the head and hand residing in the neocortex; the heart and spirit drawing on the mammalian (emotion) brain. One is future oriented. The other, in the here and now.
What does this all mean?
The late Maya Angelou said it best, "People will forget what you said, they will forget what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel." Even though the weight of evidence points to followership, decision-making and both employee and customer "buy in" being dominated by emotion, the heart and spirit are not where leaders traditionally focus when it comes to self-development. It's work that even successful executives set aside as "something I need to get to". And yet, in the midst of this crisis, what a number of executives are sharing is that only now are they discovering just how essential leadership balance is.
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