The business community as a whole is seeking to define and describe the attributes and traits of a dynamic leader. Even universities are revitalising themselves in order to position their institutions as creators of dynamic leaders for an economy that is increasingly globalised.
Unlike eras and epochs that have come before our own, a leader’s new calling is to build organisations that are able to adapt to new circumstances and integrate new–and even diverse and divisive–ideas and bring them under the same umbrella. The challenge for leaders in our generation, therefore, is to do so on a continuous basis.
In the midst of all the short-lived glamour of social media mayhem, training events and temporary testimonials; there is one curious omission throughout leadership seminars, courses and retreats. We have forgotten the leaders who came before our present generation.
As we become increasingly globalised people, our leadership stories have become very much that–stories. We have settled for a war of words and swords rather than focusing on what leaders accomplished within their lifetime in their respective fields and industries.
For those who are on the leadership path of doing, as opposed to speaking; the purpose of our work can change–even if our personalities do not. The zeal with which we once pursued old goals and paths that did not work can be revitalised to pursue a new calling. When a leader changes direction, he himself does not necessarily change. He is still the same individual deep down.
Under the prior leadership paradigm, leaders often sought to eliminate those who did not conform. This has led to severe wounds within sizeable segments of society who were not permitted to ‘fit in’ anywhere; and thus find themselves isolated and alienated from institutional dogma and doctrine. From race, to gender, to religious beliefs and sexual orientation; the criteria by which the ‘in’ group excluded the ‘out’ group are various and many.
Within the new leadership paradigm, we are searching–you could even say that we are on a quest–to discover how we can find a new way to lead. A way that is more inclusive, more embracive and more welcoming; and you could even include more loving. This requires a different approach.
First, we need to note that our natural inclinations and abilities will probably not change. What will change is our calling and the way that we will propel ourselves onward and forward. This requires passion, continuous discussion, a focus on the future (only when one has understood the past), and a willingness not to throw in the towel when the sea is choppy.
We should neither gloss over the messiness of change nor expect the journey to be seamless. Letting go of the old ways is not the answer. To successfully undertake this change, we have to do more than make superficial changes in language and semantics. That is why, more often not, ‘open’ communication fails to deliver what it is supposed to. Changing the current of the unseen force that is unwittingly propelling us forward onto the wrong path requires time, commitment, effort and diligence.
Enforcers of the old paradigm will eventually decay. It will not be a fast process, but it is an ongoing one. As people begin to leave and grow more alienated, it will take twice as much effort to bring them back. Clear boundaries for acceptable and unacceptable behaviour provide us with a comfort zone and a yardstick with which we can measure our progress.
To create dynamic organisations, however, requires that we grow; not out of the old ways–but emerge from them into a new dawn that carries on from the night before.
The challenge, then, is to look at life–and our leadership journey through the lens of excitement; despite its ambiguous nature.