For generations it was said that leaders don’t let themselves be influenced by their emotions. Today I claim the opposite: Only someone who is emotionally invested can make the right decisions. Why? Modern leaders operate in an environment that is ever-changing, risky and highly complex. Reflecting on the personal self, making yourself aware of your emotional state creates an important guard rail for leaders.
Change from within!
The digitalization has brought many new business models with it and also invalidates old management theories. Rigid processes are replaced by temporary projects and changing responsibilities. The effect: Flatter hierarchical structures and more democracy.
What makes someone a good manager today? The ability to shape transition and change. Together with colleagues I have developed concrete suggestions of how this can look in practice.
However many companies don’t have this level of confidence in their managers. Often consultants are hired who are meant to facilitate the necessary change. Why don’t we trust in our own people? Usually they know best how the business runs.
But we need to enable them to reflect on themselves in the midst of an overstrained and over-complex environment. For the business this means a paradigm shift.
It necessitates a new definition of the term human leadership. And a new solution: Letting go of processes, giving away control, but definitely maintaining leadership. Sounds easy, but it isn’t.
Because, for the leaders of tomorrow this means that they need to see themselves as relationship managers. Their task lies in linking employees on all hierarchical levels in a way that enables them to work together. To achieve this managers have to understand themselves as “emotional leaders” who inspire their employees and engage themselves in achieving common goals. This also entails communicating effectively which results are expected from employees and why they are important.
Companies have to empower their leaders accordingly. The goal that I have set for my team and myself is ambitious:
We want to spread a mindset at all management levels which fits to these requirements. Attentiveness is the accompanying keyword. We want our managers to trust in their own abilities more and pay better attention to others as well as themselves. Being attentive of ourselves and others is not something we are born with.
It has to be learned, fostered and above all it has to be lived. This is enabled by a company structure that creates more room for self-reflection. Our brain is trained to rate every perception immediately.
This reflex is beneficial to make quick decisions in daily business. But simultaneously it also cements our thinking habits and leaves little room for innovation. Because of this the concept of attentiveness holds a radical challenge: Don’t give in to your accustomed thinking reflexes.
To do this managers often first have to shift down a gear. Learning to concentrate on the here and now. Creating room for future ideas and solutions which keep the company competitive and fit for the digital transition. A colleague remarked fittingly: ”It is as if the head is a glass filled with water and sand. If I stir it all day it becomes murky. But if I allow it to rest and let the sand settle, I am able to gain a better perspective.“
I have made the experience that one shouldn’t react to problems (only) with restructuring and process optimization. Because this changes nothing about the behaviors. Someone who is aware of their emotions can reflect on them, look at them with a certain distance and is able to act more consciously rather than impulsively and by reflex. This opens up a greater scope of action that allows for better results. Usually it is the small things – the”here-and-now-moments“– which enable change. an awareness has to be created to achieve this.
For example, in my team we start every meeting with a “Mindful Minute”: Paying attention to your own body, feeling your emotions, concentrating on the moment and focusing your thoughts.
Essentially we dial it down a little, reflect on what is most important, are more sensible to the moods of others and are able to engage with one another more effectively. Small changes — large impact: We communicate more openly and directly and thus also more efficiently.
Radical change! More pioneer spirit!
Leading through empathy, breaking open old behavioral patterns by creating systematic awareness, these aren’t brand new methods.
However in my mind they are without alternatives, if we want to stem the challenges of digitalization. At our company these are now compulsory performance criteria which our employees are measured by.
Only through a new awareness towards these so-called “soft” factors of company leadership will we be able to facilitate a sustainable transformation and the necessary cultural change. Our company is entering uncharted territory, they say.
„The true discovery lies not in finding new territory, but in seeing things in a new light“
The digital transformation needs pioneers. What these pioneers need as armament in modern labor policy is something we should to discuss with interested companies in the next future.
Written by Barbara Lietz, CEO Scope Asia Switzerland and Timor