Every few months, I step back and think about the world of leadership and review what's new, what people are writing about, what my clients are doing, and what new challenges have arisen. It's sometimes fun to predict if a new topic is a fad or if there is some meat there. Below are four topics that have come up several times in my work this year. Some of them are new while others have been discussed for some time. Here's my take on the importance of these four topics:
Agility has become a popular buzzword over the last 10 to 15 years, but it's not a new concept. To succeed, organizations have always had to change over time. However, in today’s world, agility is a "must-have," whereas 70 years ago it was a "nice-to-have." The reality is that organizations have more competitors than ever who are trying to steal their market share and their best talent. Not only that, but there are innovators who pop up (e.g., Uber, Amazon, etc.) who completely disrupt an industry. In order for an organization to have agility it must have leaders who are agile and innovative change agents. The days of the old curmudgeon CEO saying “we never would have done it that way in my day” are over. Although these CEOs still exist, I believe they will be completely extinct within 20 years. Agile is the way of the future and it is here to stay. In fact, studies have repeatedly shown that "learning agility," the ability to learn from new experiences, is what differentiates successful executives from unsuccessful ones. Measuring learning agility will help to identify successful leaders.
Coaching as a Culture
Coaching as a culture is something that may not be discussed widely outside of leadership, organizational development, and coaching circles, but it should be. In my mind, organizations who want to have a coaching culture are simply saying “we want our leaders to lead.” Too many times, we see organizations fill the plates of supervisors and managers so much that they only have time for the administrative aspects of their jobs. I have seen hospital organizations that have 100 individuals report to one supervisor who is responsible for vacation, pay, and performance reviews. How can you give someone a performance review when you only see them three or four times a year? Encouraging regular employee feedback and fostering an environment where leaders empower and engage their employees will help create culture of coaching that is more meaningful and more easily assimilated into day-to-day leading.
Data is, of course, not a new topic but will continue to gain momentum over the next few years. As more agile leaders move up and into executive roles, they will need to rely on strong data, not backroom handshakes and sidebar conversations. I think it's an uphill battle, though. How many times have you left a meeting where decisions were made only to find out that things changed based on an informal meeting that happened when you weren’t present? Okay, so I am getting away from the “data” topic a bit, but I think there is a relationship. Instead of the good old boys club, the data is there to make decisions from, and data analysts should have the most influence.
Personal disruption is a somewhat new term for me. Whitney Johnson is probably the most notable person talking about this topic currently. As I mentioned above, innovators like Uber completely disrupt an industry and create a new market. However, what I had not considered in the past is how you can disrupt your own life in a positive way. For example, are there individuals you have seen who have jumped industries, type of role, or career path? Are they making terrible random choices? Or, perhaps, they are disrupting the status quo in their life to learn and create more well-rounded expertise? Now, as an Industrial Psychologist, I might say that they are job hoppers, they are a flight risk, and don’t hire them. However, we can start thinking about this in a different way: those who do this who have a purpose and intent can turn out to be some of the most innovative and agile leaders.
It's important to stay on top of the latest topics and trends (check out our Weekly Leadership Tips email!) in the HR, leadership, and business worlds, and it's important to consider these trends with a critical eye. But, personal disruption, agility, big data, and coaching as a culture are four concepts that I believe are worth considering as you develop effective leadership strategies.