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Shake Up What You Know About Leadership

dog shaking after bath
Angela R. Howard Photo
Organizational Psychologist, Culture Strategist and Social Entrepreneur
ARH Clarity Consulting

7 minutes

Modern leaders can use ‘the leadership mentality’ to own their impact.

When you hear the word leadership, what do you think of?

You may think about a specific person, persona, or profile. Or perhaps you have a series of lived experiences that have defined good and bad leadership for you.

Many people think about leadership as a position, a name on an org chart or the person in charge. However, there is a rapidly evolving realization that the next generation of leadership is motivated by identity, purpose, humility and responsibility to others rather than power, position and authority. “Command and control” leadership is quickly fading away along with old paradigms of work.

The Future of Work Points to Conscious Impact and Change

If you are staying close to workplace and work-life trends, you’re probably overwhelmed with a myriad of data, perspectives and information about the future of work and leadership. The three main global themes today are these:

1. The Great Resignation/Attrition/Re-shuffling (all the buzz words): This sounds eerily similar to the “war for talent” (remember that one?) but it has some nuances. With a growing gig economy, emerging workforce and evolving social contracts of what talent expects out of leadership and the workplace, 41% of workers are considering leaving or changing jobs as I write this in February 2022. The empowerment pendulum is shifting to the people and there is an energized conversation around the impact of leadership and work on the masses.

2. An Aging and Emerging Workforce: Where we used to have five generations in the workplace, we’re now seeing Baby Boomers taking the opportunity to retire, which is creating a massive skill gap and a growing entry point for an emerging generation in the workplace—Generation Z.

3. Social Responsibility and Conscious Business: And speaking of Generation Z, expectations around business’ social impact and responsibility is at top of mind for the next generation. The growing (millennial) and emerging workforce (Gen Z) have a strong and accountability-focused focus on business’ involvement in such societal and humanitarian issues as mental health, the environment, societal disparities and discrimination.

Leadership as a Mindset Around Impact: The Leadership Mentality

In a modern workplace, thinking about leadership as the person in charge is missing a piece of the puzzle. Leadership, the state of mind and mentality, has little to do with position and more to do with impact, service to others and having a positive influence on them. As a modern leader, there are three elements that I’ve identified as crucial to your growth and journey as an impact leader, which I call the “leadership mentality. These are “you,” “team” and “we.”

You—Self Awareness and Courage

It starts with an internal awareness and the courage to reflect, iterate, and improve. Jim Collins describes the concept of a “level 5 leader.” In his research for the book Good to Great, this “persona” of leadership emerged as a key player in transforming organizations from “good” to “great.” Level 5 leadership is a balance (a yin and yang of sorts) of personal humility and professional will. In other words, you’re able to be modest and vulnerable enough to admit when you’re wrong and see yourself as a life-long learner while also demonstrating an unwavering resolve to improve and progress.

This sweet spot is an important balance for any leader to maintain while they are looking to see their leadership mentality flourish. Here are some key questions/considerations to cover this part of the model. 

  1. Do you want to lead and serve? In what areas?
  2. How would you like to show up as a leader? What impact do you want to have on others? 

If you have a boost of courage: Reflect on or ask two or three people to answer these questions about you: 

  1. How am I showing up? How are my behaviors impacting others? 
  2. What am I doing well? How are my behaviors positively impacting others? 
  3. What could I work on to improve my leadership? 

Team—Climate and Care

Inspiring a group of people to achieve a common goal is a cornerstone of leadership. How a leader accomplishes this is usually where the discussion of “good” or “bad” management comes into play. For example, many leaders (in the past and currently) have used force, fear and intimidation to reach a state of influence, power or result. This dark side of leadership is a toxic pathway to destroying organizational culture, breaking trust and undermining entire teams—leading to short-term results through fear or manipulation with long-term damage on people, the organization and sustainable results.

Compare this to the leader who uses inspiration, inclusion, care for people and empowerment to achieve a common goal. The difference between these two strategies is the mentality of the leader. Empathetic leadership is linked to better outcomes, more innovation, more engagement, increased retention and better, more holistic wellness outcomes.

The leadership mentality is not only the how you are going to accomplish your goal or reach your outcomes, but also the mentality and sense of responsibility you have to others who are coming along with you.

Here are some key questions/considerations to cover this part of the model:

  1. Think about a team you are leading (formally or informally). How can you be of service to them? How can you remove barriers?
  2. Where might there be opportunities to give your team additional empowerment and ownership over their work?
  3. What structures have you set up to ensure your team feels supported and connected?
  4. What do you know about your team as humans? (motivations, aspirations, challenges, etc.?)
  5. How are you creating psychological safety (people feel safe to speak up and be authentically themselves) in the spaces you lead?

We—Community and Culture

With the emergence of more remote and hybrid working, leading virtually or in a hybrid work environment only elevates the need for effective leadership that can actively create a sense of belonging and build community. Such key leadership characteristics as empathy, clarity and the ability to build relationships have never been more important.

Here are two key questions/considerations to cover this part of the model:

  1. In what communities do you have influence?
  2. What opportunities do you have to build community and increase belonging and positive change in your sphere of influence?

Let’s Get to Work & Top 5 Tips

We all can lead—regardless of position or where we sit on an organizational chart. The future of leadership is communal, humble and focused on community and inclusion—not as an exclusive outdated workplace experience.

The next generation of talent expects an elevated version of leadership than we’ve seen in the past, which we believe will evolve into a leadership mentality. Here’s a hot five recap about what we learned today about how to shift to a leadership mentality:

  1. Do reflect often and have the courage and humility to change.
  2. Don’t see leadership as an end game. It’s an ongoing journey where you will never arrive.
  3. Do seek out examples of leadership that inspire you.
  4. Do what you can to create psychologically safe spaces.
  5. Don’t underestimate the positive power of your leadership and influence.

Angela R. Howard is an organizational psychologist, culture strategist and social entrepreneur working to build human-centric workplaces, better leaders and thriving communities along-side growth minded leaders. Her mission is to create more human-centric workplaces that send happier and more fulfilled humans home to further enrich their communities and society. She does this by serving as a trusted thought leader advisor to owners, founders and CEOs interested in shaping and “actualizing” their organizational cultures for the collective good of their organizations, employees and the communities they serve.

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