Providing effective leadership while simultaneously building organizational leadership capability is crucial to any organization. As a highly contextualized practice, however, using the old leadership formula no longer works in the new context.

The new market is one of complexity, turbulence and high velocity. The acronym VUCA (volatile, unpredictable, complex and ambiguous) is often used to describe these new conditions. This new environment has created unfamiliar, and often confusing, situations by posing new types of challenges: ‘adaptive’ challenges as opposed to technical ones. While technical problems are easy to identify and can be solved by applying well-known and tried solutions, adaptive challenges are difficult to define, have no known or clear-cut solutions, and call for new ideas to bring about change in multiple places that involve many stakeholders. Examples of adaptive challenges include designing and successfully implementing complex systems or procedures, and securing agreement for a policy change, while dealing with multiple people management and generational issues, including stakeholder relationships with conflicting goals and interests.

As a seasoned leader, have you have sensed that today it is becoming more challenging to inspire, motivate and commit people to action than it used to be?

The following 10 capabilities are what I learned from a lifetime spent assisting leaders around the world on how build a culture of trust, integrity, accountability, collaboration, innovation, high performance, and success. They have also been confirmed by the latest research.

  1. Contextual and Strategic Intelligence

Contextual intelligence (CI) relates to fully understanding the context in which you lead. It has three key components, hindsight, foresight, and insight:

Hindsight is about taking full advantage of what you have learned in the past.
Foresight is the ability to clearly articulate what you wish to become and clarify what you will do to reach your goals and aspirations.
Insight is the convergence of hindsight and foresight – the decisions resulting from knowledge informed by hindsight.
Strategic intelligence is the capability to anticipate competitor behavior by identifying emerging trends and patterns. It provides a conceptual system of leadership for change. Combined, these two capabilities afford you greater clarity and accuracy to read your organization’s economic landscape and to determine how to move forward.

  1. Learning Agility and Adaptability

Learning agility refers to your capacity to learn from experience and to then apply this learning to new contexts, thus enabling you to rapidly adapt to new business problems and keep learning from your experience as you do it. This transformative learning strengthens your tolerance for ambiguity and uncertainty.

  1. Sensemaking and Visioning

Sensemaking relates to the process of making sense of the current reality, and enables you and your people to make sense of experiences, events or issues that are confusing, ambiguous, or unexpected. Visioning creates a map of the future by painting a picture of new possibilities. It provides your people with the motivation to give up their current views and work out ways to change.

  1. Storytelling

Storytelling is a strategic business tool and the preferred sensemaking currency of human relationships among all stakeholders. It serves multiple purposes: highlighting your company’s purpose; socialising new employees; transferring knowledge in the workplace when mentoring others; facilitating internal and external communications; developing teams and leadership skills; engaging clients and customers; communicating complex ideas; and persuading others to change. Impactful stories appeal to the intellect, evoke emotion, and contextualize and encapsulate messages. Effective storytelling requires speakership (powerful oratory) – the science of influence and the art of oration.

  1. Emotional and Social intelligence

Emotional and social intelligence (ESI) relates to the competencies linked to four key domains: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management. It affords you relational capacity, and boosts the networking and social capital of your organization. ESI is one of the best predictors of leadership effectiveness and business performance, as it is relevant to global contexts and wider settings, facilitates learning, and provides leaders with the flexibility to anticipate, adapt, create and sustain change.

  1. Authenticity

Authenticity means staying true to yourself and owning your personal experiences (e.g. values, beliefs, emotions, needs and wants). Exercising authentic leadership means leading from your own personal point of view by being consistent with your truth. This requires being self-aware and transparent, setting high standards for moral and ethical conduct, being open to opinions and viewpoints prior to making important decisions, and acting without impulse or hidden agendas. Acting authentically requires courage and builds your character strength. Character is the unique combination of mental characteristics and behavior that distinguishes you from others. Strength of character means doing the right thing despite temptations or outside pressure to the contrary. It means speaking up and acting on your convictions – what you believe is right, according to your values and your truth. Acting consistently like this builds your capacity for character-based leadership and demonstrates your moral potency and ethics. This affords you a great reputation, which is essential for effective leadership and one of the most treasured and powerful assets you can have as a leader.

  1. Psychological Capital

Psychological capital (PsyCap) relates to the state of development that influences your levels of satisfaction and performance. PsyCap is the result of the powerful synergistic effect of the following four psychological states represented by the acronym HERO:

Hope: The will and the way – your desire, ambition and expectation to persevere and, when necessary, to change direction to reach your goals.
Efficacy: Your confidence to succeed – your belief in your ability to take on and succeed at challenging tasks within a given context.
Resilience: Your capacity to bounce back from adversity, conflict and failure to succeed, and adapt to changing and stressful demands.
Optimism: Your capacity to attribute and explain: positive events as personal, permanent and pervasive causes; and negative events as external, temporary and situation specific

  1. Creative Thinking and Innovative Behavior

Creativity is projected to become the third most important skill needed in 2020. Leader behavior can shape company culture and is an important predictor and innovative workplace behavior (IWB) – the behavior that guides the initiation and intentional introduction of new and useful ideas, processes, products, services, or procedures. From a strategic perspective, your leadership is an important driver of innovation in two ways: (1) establishes a work environment that is conducive to creativity and subsequent innovation; and (2) drives and manages strategic innovation goals. This capability affords competitive advantage for your organization.

  1. Global Mindsets and Cultural Intelligence

As a leader, your ability to adopt a global mindset and being able to exercise global leadership to affect change is critical. To this end, you need cultural intelligence (CQ) – the capability to relate and work effectively in culturally diverse contexts and situations. CQ also affords you the ability to effectively manage diversity and inclusion within the organization.

  1. Collective Leadership Capability

Collective leadership involves all employees and means that everyone takes responsibility for the success of a team or organization. Hence, today’s leadership mandate is not about exercising power or authority but rather about creating more leaders by empowering employees at all levels of the organization. This capability affords you decentralized decision-making, high levels of collaboration and accountability. In turn, this enables you to execute flawlessly and to deliver outstanding business results.

Consistently cultivating and applying the above 10 capabilities is your definitive route to leadership excellence and results in today’s world.

© Sebastian Salicru

This article is an excerpt from the book ‘Leadership Results: How to Create Adaptive Leaders and High-performing Organisations for an Uncertain World’ (Wiley, 2017), authored by Sebastian Salicru – a leadership development expert and business psychologist based in Sydney who works globally.

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