I have a habit of reading a book a day, and my favorite subjects are history and biography. I like to study what has happened to leaders in the past and how they dealt with their own challenging times.
We have our own challenges in the here and now: business changes quickly and technology is constantly evolving. But the principles of leadership are timeless. So do we change our leadership to adapt, or stay the course we’re already on?
As with so many things, the answer is “It depends.” The changes themselves aren’t the issue—it’s the things that get lost in the shuffle. Especially when change is whirling around you, take some time to examine the basics and see what’s missing—then adapt your leadership to provide it. Here are some examples:
When character is lost, lead with character. Character sets the tone for how people will be, and when it goes missing it leaves a definite void. Lead by example; show what character looks like and sounds like. The importance of character can’t be overstated. Authentic leaders are grounded in a strong set of personal values that can have a profound effect on everyone.
When self-awareness is lacking, lead with self-awareness. Research suggests that leaders who are self-aware—who know themselves—are up to four times more effective in managing change than people who aren’t. The need for self-awareness and understanding is a constant. “Leader, know thyself” is the biggest asset to leadership.
When honesty is gone, lead with integrity. There’s nothing more destructive than dishonesty, and broken trust can rarely be regained. In a broken environment it’s more important than ever to lead with integrity and to maintain standards of honor and truthfulness. However difficult it may seem, it always pays off in the end.
When empathy isn’t present, lead with compassion. One of the most valuable traits a leader can possess is the ability to tune in to people and truly understand them. Understanding the emotions of others equips you to respond to them and to develop strong relationships. When empathy is missing from a workplace, a leader needs to set the tone by demonstrating the power of compassion and understanding.
When decisiveness is absent, lead with determination. One of the biggest challenges of our time is trying to choose from a dizzying multitude of options. Decisiveness has never been more important. In its absence, a leader needs to be even quicker on their feet and prepared to gather data quickly and make huge decisions on the fly in an educated manner.
When optimism is gone, lead with positivity. Even the sunniest people find it hard to keep up positive energy in a sour environment. When morale sinks, an excellent leader can always start to change things up. They know the power of encouraging words and team spirit, and they make sure people feel good enough about what they are doing in order to keep forging forward.
When vision is missing, lead with a viewpoint. It’s incredibly hard to rally a group of people together without vision, so it’s imperative for a leader to connect people with a vision so compelling that it draws them to become part of it.
When innovation is absent, lead with creativity. If those around you are not tapping into the team’s innovation or creativity, it’s the leader’s duty to demonstrate inventiveness and inspiration, leading others to think and act with creatively and passion.
To truly be a timeless leader you need to pay attention to what is missing and become the person who provides it. The times will keep changing and so will you, but if you grow in leadership while staying agile and alert, you will be able to deliver great leadership under any circumstances.