Struggling to lead at the moment? That’s okay.

As a leader, you might be struggling and that’s ok.

If ever there was a time where we feel our flaws and weaknesses as leaders are truly exposed, it is now.  Much energy has been taken up by protecting and ensuring continuity of mission and mission critical functions.  Some have found time to redirect strategy.  Some haven’t.  Many are struggling with managing remote teams, lack of social life and loneliness.  Many leaders are struggling to stay truly connected to their teams, to support those that need supporting and to identify who they are.  Many people are completing the toughest work of their careers, without the normal social fabric and support networks that they are accustomed to leaning on.

The ground is shifting, and some of the leadership skills and practices that have got us this far don’t seem to fit any more.  Leaders need a core foundation of stability in themselves.  The ability to self regulate and to prioritise self care are essential.  2020 has picked away at the emotional vulnerability in all of us, niggling at our armour and reducing our resilience.  And that’s ok.  It’s part of a process.  Things are changing and we are evolving.

Some of the best leaders of all time have drawn upon the empathy, courage, humility and resilience they learnt in the darkest parts of their lives to lead with compassion, intelligence and wisdom.  Your struggle today is a formative education carving out the leadership skills you need in the future.  Here’s how to capture the learnings and leadership skills that will propel your career, your business and your people into the new normal.

  • Know that plenty of people are struggling at the moment. It’s pretty normal.  Stop judging or criticising yourself and accept that we are all going through a challenging phase of personal growth.  Lean into that thought and open yourself up for the learning with humility, curiosity and gratitude.
  • Take care of yourself. Get enough water, good food, rest and exercise. Spend time meditating.  Make sure your people are taking care of themselves too.  A bit of life coaching goes a long way at the moment.  Share your journey with the team and get them involved in their own journeys’ too.  Modelling self care and helping people with this part of their life is going to be a normal expectation of leaders moving forwards.  It’s a bit old fashioned for leaders to be overweight and hitting the grog every night.  If you want a high performing team, lead by example on self care.
  • Admit that it is tough, ask your team for help and really check in with how they are travelling. Try asking people “what’s on your mind”, “what can I help you with”, “what do you need?”.  Really listen, ask questions and immediately action anything you can do to help.  If you are prepared to model the humility to ask for help, you give everyone else permission to do exactly the same.  Conversely, if you don’t, you show them that asking for help isn’t the sort of behaviour you expect.  Make sure you know how to refer someone if you are worried about their wellbeing. Humility, empathy and vulnerability are super skills in the new leadership model, start using them now.
  • Over communicate. Communicate the good and the not so good.  Where there is a lack of information humans tend to make up their own, and often will add a layer of emotion.  Make sure your people know what’s happening to the business, their job, your industry.  Build your skills in this area so you can better communicate with teams, both virtual and face to face, all around the world using multi modal technologies.  This will be normal in the future.
  • Build accountability skills. Failing to address non performance puts great pressure on your high performing team members and right now, this is a greater risk to them than ever before.  Take the role of coach.  Develop your skills in the area of setting AND COMMUNICATING very clear, objective expectations and create a reliable and predictable cadence for checking in with people and their performance.  Accountability has long been a core leadership skill, but our options and tools for managing this have changed, so get familiar with the best way to do this in the new normal and start using it now.
  • Get comfortable with uncertainty. We expect to experience an increasing rate of change in the world post COVID.  As a leader, you are not always going to know the right thing to do, but you will have to make decisions and take action anyway.  Failing to take a decision is a decision in itself.  Get good at doing the best you can, involving the combined intelligence of the team in decision making, and taking action while being ready to change direction if needed.  You need to know the next step and you need the courage to take it.  You don’t need to see the whole staircase.  You need to be able to build a buffer of trust that you can lean in to when you make the odd mistake.

Take advantage of the enormous developmental and learning opportunity that 2020 is for all of us.  There is an opportunity to develop the skills and competencies which will set you apart as a leader in the new normal.  If you find the humility, the curiosity and the self compassion to uncover the learnings, your team, your business and your career will thank you for it.

One of the wisdoms that Ruth Bader Ginsburg left us with was “So often in life, things that you regard as an impediment turn out to be great, good fortune.”  Don’t miss the process here, grab the good fortune and set yourself up with the leadership skills that we need you to have in the future.

How else can you let the current situation next level your leadership skills?

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