Let me start by saying these times are not unique. Yes, I am sure this will generate some constructive feedback, but hear me out.
In our lifetimes we have seen significant change, especially in the digital era. New technologies and tools have had a remarkable impact on the business world. Just ask any video rental store or taxi company if their businesses have recently been threatened or challenged. Some businesses have come out stronger while others have struggled to survive. So, we’ve seen widespread impact in industries before, and it will be the companies with strong leadership that will come out in front.
(side note: yes, COVID-19 has a broader impact across most industries; my point is that change is all around us)
What does strong leadership look like?
First let me say, I am and always will be a student of leadership. It does not matter at which stage of your career you’re in or your level of responsibility, businesses need better leaders, especially now! “Never stop learning” is what my 90-year-old father-in-law says, and he just retired from practicing medicine at 84!
The more I learn about business, the more I know it is about people
The more I learn about business, the more I know it is about people. Any leader must recognize that technology helps to enable and streamline your business, but it is the people using the technology, and the systems and processes led by people that really make a difference.
I would like to share some thoughts from an author I admire and respect. Vince Molinaro wrote the book The Leadership Contract (2013) and it is fundamentally a core staple in how leadership should operate. He touches on many aspects, but narrows it down to 4 key principals:
How and where do I start to build leadership communities?
The obvious place to start is to build a community of leaders within your organization to share ideas, brainstorm solutions, and solve your complex challenges. This is simple and most leaders are good at this, or at a minimum have a few select coworkers they can rely on, regardless of their degree of influence within the organization.
The real opportunity lies in creating a community of leaders outside of your organization.
During the COVID-19 situation, I have been fortunate enough to be included in a few external leadership communities that have been extremely valuable.
One group is lead by a progressive leadership development organization that, free of charge, has set up a weekly meeting for like-minded leaders to connect on how each leader is navigating in these challenging times. We meet weekly with each meeting lasting only 45 minutes, and I come out after every meeting with several leadership strategies and tactics that I can then share with my organization.
The second group I belong to is a group of senior business technology leaders who have similar business challenges to mine, but they operate in different industry verticals. We meet bi-weekly to share our challenges and learnings, and recently we’ve been communicating several times per week to help each other to be our best in our respective leadership responsibilities. Each of our challenges, solutions, and the media content over the previous 2 weeks are all shared, making all of us more aware of how we’re showing up as leaders in our respective companies. Sometimes we just need to cheer each other on during tough moments, and that is a priceless gift.
So, what are you waiting for? Get out there and start building your leadership communities. Just remember the purpose is not only for your own growth but for the growth of every leader with whom you interact. Better leadership everywhere is what drives the company’s overall health and success. Being connected to a leadership community will help all of us to better navigate the good and challenging times.