Career Guide


5 Timeless leadership roles to help navigate change

If there’s one thing that’s constant today (and every day, for that matter), it’s change. Whether it is people or organisations, change is the one thing both can rely on that will emerge when it’s least expected – or desired.

While the business landscape is in a perpetual state of flux – and always will be – the challenges that leaders face when working through change are timeless principles that remain the same. The need to envision, create, sustain and adapt are imperative to a company’s success, albeit at different stages along its lifecycle.


Here are five leadership roles leaders should expect when facing inevitable change:

1 Leaders are growth mindsetters

In Carol Dweck’s groundbreaking book Mindset: The New Psychology Of Success, she highlights the difference between a fixed and a growth mindset. Namely, people with a fixed mindset believe that talent and motivation are innate and therefore non-developable, whereas those with a growth mindset believe success is earned through practice and hard work.

Imperative to leadership effectiveness is inculcating the growth mindset not only for oneself but for others, too, as an organisation is only as strong as the leaders who define it.

One way leaders can do this is by praising failure (different from encouraging it). When employees see effort as the means by which results are attained and failure as an acceptable temporary by-product of that effort, they’re more willing to try and fail rather than not try at all.


2 Leaders lead with energy

Founding a company is no easy feat. It takes hard work, persistence, a growth mindset and, most of all, the energy to keep going. Energy presents itself physically, mentally and emotionally, expressed through non-verbal cues such as facial expressions, vigour with which you answer questions (or don’t) and voice pitch.

Leaders are switched “on” each day in this start-up mode and as a result, literally breathe life into the company. They must, for if they don’t then their newly minted start-up just becomes another new business gone awry.


3 Leaders as creators

Significant to an organisational leader’s effectiveness is the environment that he or she creates that enthuses others to think or act out of newly inspired values. In other words, leaders determine the direction and success of a company based on the culture they instill today, and they do so in three ways:

1. Only hiring like-minded employees

2. “Raising” employees according to the belief system of the organisation

3. Individual expression (i.e. behaviour) that role models the way for others to espouse

How a leader shows up is everything. The positive or negative thinking and emotions, the words a leader chooses to use (or avoids) all contribute to not only a leader’s professional effectiveness, but also that of others.

If a leader constantly micromanages, then instilling trust becomes an organisational challenge; if a leader supports a democratic leadership style all the time, then decision-making becomes impaired. There’s no right way to do everything. Rather, different situations necessitate different tools.


4 Leaders as growth catalysers

At some point – hopefully, many points – companies must grow, not just in size but in the process and systems that keep the name brand competitive. This is a significant gap that pervades many organisations, as leaders face three challenges here.

First, it’s easy for leaders to become emotionally attached to the culture they’ve (ideally) created. Thus they fear that as the company scales, the culture will have an inverse reaction; essentially, that they’ll lose the uniqueness that serves as a talent scout.

Second, to compensate for the unknown associated with scaling, they instill process after process in hopes of creating certainty. More affectionately, it’s a “CYA” methodology, or the equivalent of what I heard in the Navy when it came to tying knots (“If you don’t know knots, tie lots!”).

Third, leaders don’t know how to scale so they procrastinate, and in doing so, they lose their competitive advantage.

To stay competitive in today’s fast-paced world, leaders must continually adapt to a changing landscape, and that means internalising change within the culture and serving as catalysers for perpetual growth.


5 Leaders as adaptability agents

The term “change agent” connotes a complete shift from what one once knew to something new entirely. However, when you really think about it, do organisations really change?

Or, do leaders tend to adapt the inner linings of their organisation through re-structuring or re-strategising to answer the competitive calling? Organisations don’t change, they adapt. They exploit the gaps in their current system and fill them by building upon the strengths they need. They must, otherwise they won’t survive.

A leader’s role varies at different stages in the game. If you’re cognisant of what to forget, what to adopt and what to adapt as the next phase approaches, you’re already ahead of the game.


Jeff is a former Navy SEAL who helps business teams find clarity in chaos. He is a contributor at Forbes and Entrepreneur.com, speaks at the Harry Walker Agency, and recently authored “Navigating Chaos: How To Find Certainty In Uncertain Situations”. To get in touch with Jeff, e-mail us at editor@leaderonomics.com

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