This article originally appeared in ICMI.
If anything is certain, it’s that the business climate is changing at a fast pace, and that the rate of change is accelerating. Inside our organizations, we are only as strong as our weakest link, but what if that weak link is us as leaders?
Leading during times of change takes a great amount of courage. How do we know if our leadership skills need to evolve? Will we have the guts to honestly look at ourselves and ask the hard questions? Is leading in a work-at-home or hybrid environment really that different than a brick-and-mortar environment? Are we great leaders and just have the wrong people working for us in this ever-changing environment?
How we answer these questions will determine how we see our own leadership style. The Leadership Mirror is critical in this changing climate. Our reflection of how we see ourselves as leaders is the key. Here are four topics to think about:
- Our people have told us how great we are, and we continue to believe them. Is our team just comfortable with the status quo, or do we really have the ability to be creative and lead during a crisis? What if we have to rock the boat? Will they still follow us?
- We convince ourselves that how we have led people in brick-and-mortar environments will work in a virtual work-at-home environment. After all, how different can it be?
- We fool ourselves into thinking we are better leaders than we really are. Our egos are in the way, and we can’t see what’s really going on.
- We are tired, lazy, or both. We’ve been a leader for years—we have this “leadership thing” down pat. But with too much change and too much uncertainty, we have checked out emotionally.
There could be an underlying foundation under each of these thoughts—and it could be fear. Common fears include:
- Someone will find out that we have made a mistake, overlooked something, or made a decision too quickly or too slowly.
- We’ll lose our credibility within the company.
- The results won’t be there, and we will lose our job in this competitive market.
- We won’t get promoted.
- We won’t know how to fix problems inside our organizations.
Having the courage to ask ourselves tough questions is the first step in moving forward. For leaders that are interested in doing a gut check, here are some suggestions:
- Do it at 3 a.m., lying in bed in the dark when no one else is around.
- Listen to both the positive and negative thoughts in your head.
- Enlist the help of a mentor who can gently or not so gently give you a push.
- Have a heart-to-heart with a colleague leader you trust who is willing to ask you tough questions.
- Talk with your direct reports. Hopefully they are honest and not afraid to answer your questions.
- Make phone calls to the front-line employees and supervisors. If they believe you really want to make things better, they will talk openly with you.
People won’t follow a leader they don’t respect. Being honest with ourselves, getting some additional support, and getting direct feedback from employees at all levels are great ways to take the first step. This will help us know if we need to re-engineer how we navigate the current business climate to drive the results we need.
It takes courage to be a great leader. It also takes courage to be honest with ourselves. But when we are willing to ask ourselves those hard questions, we are leading by example, and others will follow. That’s when the positive momentum comes into play, and we can hit our objectives and increase our revenue and profits.
Courage—that is the first step.
Recognized as a subject-matter expert on virtual/work-at-home environments and leadership development, Vicki Brackett has written for and been interviewed by Forbes, Fast Company, Fortune Magazine, CFO Magazine, CEOWorld, HR News, Training Magazine, and a host of other publications, news outlets and podcasts on creative work-at-home and employee engagement strategies.