In this article, Amy Leschke-Kahle gives her unique perspective on how work is changing and what it means to be a leader in the next phase of work.
Have you noticed how work is changing? The COVID-19 health crisis and ongoing digital transformation have combined to create a world of work that looks very different from the one in which we operated just a few years ago.
However, it's important for all organization leaders to understand that we are not experiencing "a new normal," but rather the evolution and culmination of a million different precursors into one big moment.
In other words, it's not merely a swap of one world for another, but a progression that builds upon existing foundations. This point should guide how we lead our employees and change our business practices to overcome new sets of challenges.
Here are three actions we need to see from our leaders today as we navigate this acceleration of work and life.
1. Reflect on beliefs
Traditional behaviors have paved the way to success for many senior leaders in the past, but leaders today must understand how work is changing within their industry to succeed. This means taking ownership of mindset shifts and behavior changes that need to come from us as leaders but not necessarily from others within our organizations.
This kind of leadership requires more than re-tweeting the organization's contribution to Black History Month or the #MeToo movement; it asks us to reflect on our beliefs and values to determine what applies today and what does not. In this way, we can transform our own abilities and potential for leadership while also modeling the best outlook and behavior for the employees and managers looking to us for guidance.
2. Find courage to lean into the gray
Once we identify the shifts that need to occur in how we lead, we must find the courage to see those changes through, even in amorphous, undefined, gray areas of leadership. This is because the field of HR — which is often concerned with weighty issues like payroll, hiring and risk mitigation — is evolving too.
What used to be a straightforward role that focused on resources has blossomed into a more multifaceted position that concentrates on people, which could take us into some uncharted places as leaders.
Here's an example: We're all on board with supporting diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace, but how do we actually achieve that? The answer must involve more than token support and nods of agreement. Taking the lead on these matters requires finding the courage to step into discussions and guide the business toward what is right, not just what we've always done or what our governing bodies tell us to do.
3. Focus on systems over solutions
When you come up against an organizational challenge, the answer will not come from outside the organization. The latest vendor, author or report cannot guide what you as an HR leader need to do next because these resources do not know your organization the way you do.
The answer is to go back to our roots as holistic, critical-systems thinkers. Leaders must look beyond relying on a single solution or platform and determine what their unique organization needs in its totality as an integrated ecosystem, not a to-do list with a series of isolated, one-off problems.
Are you prepared for how work is changing?
Growing is rarely easy — for organizations, teams or leaders — but it is necessary, and it requires carefully considering the ways in which your leadership must evolve to match how work is changing.
Are you adapting your leadership mindset and style to the issues at hand? Can you find the courage to face resistance? Are you ready to chart a path for your organization's future instead of relying on what outside forces tell you? Asking and answering these fundamental questions of leadership is a critical part of keeping yourself and your organization prepared for the challenges ahead.
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