Today’s busy, complicated and changing business environment requires a new kind of leadership. Gone are the days of “command and control” leadership because that style doesn’t foster true engagement, alignment and sustainable performance.
GREAT leaders in business today are able to embrace ambiguity, are agile, collaborate vs. control and embrace fear. Fear is natural and present in shifting environments when we are challenging the status quo and are wading in new and unproven waters. Fear is also natural when we are out on “the skinny branch.” Looking fear in the eye and helping others move through it is tough! Although, it is a critical and meaningful capability in any transformation. At 1-degree, we have chosen to call this brand of leadership Fearless Leadership.
Here’s an introduction to Fearless Leadership. It is defined with five attributes. They are:
Being Open Hearted
Fearless Leadership requires open-heartedness, feels vulnerable and therefore takes significant courage to activate. In fact, in many ways it feels like the opposite of “command & control.” Command & control leadership involves steering an outcome and often a need to micromanage. Fearless Leadership demands the opposite: open-heartedness, vulnerability and courage to admit that you don’t have all the answers. It also requires us to truly trust and empower others to own the outcome. Fearless Leadership requires us to consciously pause to toggle between the reptilian brain’s fear-based automatic reaction and remind ourselves of what we really want, and why that is important before making healthy choices.
Being Inside Out
Fearless Leadership is an inside-out process that starts with digging beneath the surface – knowing what causes you stress, inhibits performance and what makes you tick. As leaders we can only make shifts when we see ourselves more clearly. It is about developing the intuitive capacity and using that to make choices moment to moment. At 1-degree, we believe strongly that Fearless Leadership is accessible to everyone not just a select few.
Fearless Leadership is also ultimately strategic, and supports key business outcomes and tactics. Leadership has to be developed in the context of the organization’s desired Culture and Strategy because how you are expecting your leaders to be and act has got to be aligned with where you want the organization to go, why and how. All too often coaching programs for executives are disconnected from the larger organizational transformation and therefore limited in their effectiveness.
Our challenge with many 360 programs, for instance in leadership development is that they are NOT strategic. They are too often “leadership development initiatives in a vacuum,” – they work only at the level of changing behaviours and miss the context of what the business & culture really need to evolve. Leadership development needs to focus on “the why,” the context of the business priority needs and the impact of that on yourself and others. We believe that by weaving in “the why”, having business context and by focusing on a couple priority development areas is the recipe for meaningful & impactful change.
Fearless Leadership is about embracing a strengths-based approach. This means developing the organization by welcoming and maximizing individual strengths: talents that people have both the passion AND capability to excel in. That also means strategically mitigating those weaknesses that will get in the way of success specific to the individual and their role. In addition, strengthening intuition, empathy and curiosity all contribute to Emotional Intelligence – the ability to notice and understand emotions in ourselves and others and be able to relate in effective ways that foster high performing relationships. Strong EQ is a capability widely recognized now to have a much higher bearing on success in business than just levels of IQ.
Being Radically Accountable
With those pieces in play, you can then encourage radical accountability: holding people to bold outcomes because you are committed to their growth. Radically Accountable leaders will never say, “It is not my job”, or “It is not my fault”. Radical accountability means taking responsibility for everything. It involves “leaning in” to the tough stuff without forgetting to name the good stuff. No blamers or victims allowed. This is ridiculously hard to master but it isn’t about being tough. It is about recognizing that subconsciously fear often controls the choices we make and a willingness to uncover the fear can lead to radical accountability.
Encouraging risk-taking is a major element of being radically accountable. As leaders we need to encourage growth and this means being ok with mistakes, as long as we don’t lose the learning! Risk taking doesn’t happen in cultures where mistakes are punished. Radical accountability is not about NOT making mistakes – it is about encouraging growth and learning and seeing the mistakes or problems as evidence that learning is happening.
Underlying these attributes are three key drivers to the Fearless Leadership mindset. They are:
- Being “why” vs. just “what/how” driven – being transparent & creating dialogue around choices involving the purpose and meaning.
- Co-creating vs. “going it alone.” Any meaningful change needs to be a team effort and requires real engagement and alignment on what the future holds.
- Engaging feelings as well as facts – to navigate the murky waters of motivation and meaning. Change is an emotional process. No change happens without engaging the heart.
If you have energy to optimize your leadership development, here are some ideas to consider:
- Review your current leadership development approach for alignment with strategy and culture – development needs to be set firmly in this context.
- Explore exceptional leadership – what would that be in your organization? Ideally capabilities would be linked to how you live your core organizational values, and those behaviours included in performance reviews.
- Review who develops your leaders – do they consistently model fearless leadership themselves? Are they challenging and disrupting to cause meaningful change & align to your business strategy/desired culture? Or, is it time to inject some new thinking into the mix?
- Practice Sharing Stories – regular sharing of leadership stories within your teams will help people to really understand the desired shift in behaviour.
Fearless Leadership addresses our fast changing business landscape. It challenges unconscious biases, aligns with the larger strategy and culture, and inspires collective aspirations. At 1-degree we are motivated to coach and develop this brand of leadership and help people become more fearless. We believe that everyone has the capability for Fearless Leadership and workplaces that lead this way will experience accelerated growth and success.