Are you a leader? There are many ways to display leadership, whether it’s your main day job or a role you take on in some aspect of your life. Now ask yourself the biggest question of all: Are you a GOOD leader? Chances are, you can name a bad leader right off the top of your head; they make a lasting impact on all of those with whom they come into contact.
The world could surely use better and more confident leaders. But what does that even look like nowadays?
Pandemic hospitalizations and deaths have decreased. But the “new normal” has yet to take shape. The future of work will not pick up where things left off in late 2019. Lockdowns and the subsequent deployment of workers have changed the workplace fundamentally so that leadership must pivot, adapt, and adopt skills suited for the evolving nature of work. Leaders must reach deep for talent and skills necessary to convey leadership confidence in a virtual world.
The Information Age has surrendered to the Digital Age, a world dominated by tactics and tools. Digital methodologies and domains drive lives with people tied to their phones and integrated into the Internet of Things. We feel detached and disconcerted to find ourselves well into a reality we had no preparation for. Chances are, you feel this way without even being able to put words to it.
This less tangible and less solid world shapes and challenges leaders to make the most of disruption while assuring others that their roles remain meaningful.
Building leader confidence
Leadership confidence starts with self-awareness. For leaders to take risks, step out of their comfort zone, and make future-designing decisions, they must know who they are. Self-awareness does have parameters. It goes so far before it becomes arrogant and cocky or self-defeating and discouraging. Check-in with yourself and examine where this line is.
Leaders often find they have no center. They accept titles and positions, aware that they lack the talent to deliver. That negative center of gravity will cost them and their organization. However, the best leaders will find value at their core. They sense principles worth protecting and adopt the behaviors to share and sustain those values.
What are your values? Leaders who navigate by strong values see things differently. They see through and beyond disruption. As early as 1955, management genius Peter F. Drucker wrote, “To be a manager tomorrow will make increasing demands on one’s knowledge and competence, will present one with new challenges and with new opportunities.” It will require such leaders to do new things and do better the things they already know how to do.
You should be an adaptable leader. Leaders must learn to learn, anticipate threats, and pivot their attention towards invention and innovation. They must tie their confidence to a future stretching and evolving forward. The confident leader needs experience, resilience, and responsiveness.
Conveying leadership confidence
Leaders empower others with delegation. They use clear objectives, achievable metrics, and mutual respect to engage others. They provide the necessary tools and technology to remove barriers to success. And they model high principles of diversity, inclusion, and equity. You can tell when you are valued by those who lead you.
Leaders must work at making their confidence in the future felt. The leaders’ confidence will guide and motivate. It will sustain peers, partners, and people at work with the faith that their work will shape and enable that future. As Louis Carter wrote In Great Company (2019), leaders must demonstrate a positive future outlook, one where they remain optimistic about their work, innovative, and focused on the future.
Confident leaders press forward, prioritizing collaboration and innovation. They model a transparent, forthright belief that they, their values, and strategies have the power to design and determine the organization’s future and make a difference to direct and indirect stakeholders.
Conveying leadership in a virtual world
- Leading Teams: As virtual work has redeployed the workforce, those same workers and managers who worked well with the technology in front of them have new problems. Absent the social interaction at the coffee machine, team members find themselves struggling with video conferencing, dashboards, and workplace communication tools.
Leaders should raise the bar on training managers to train at a distance. Affected managers must understand the mechanics of the technologies and have the talent to train and develop team members. Leaders should play a role in meetings to share their concerns, interests, and confidence in the future. Virtual meetings become occasions for connection, assurance, and optimism.
- Talent Retention: Confident leaders have accepted the modality of virtual work. They recognize advantages in the disruption of hierarchies, the definition of tasks, and the connection between worker and customer values.
In a world of virtual work, leaders have direct access to workers and their work. They can caution against threats observed in real-time or compliment team inputs and outcomes. And leaders will enjoy an intimacy with talent, able to watch their growth and contribution.
- Transformational Model: Legacy organizational models promoted transactional behaviors. Leaders would reward reports of achievement when they reached their office. Hierarchies and processes kept the leader distant from the actual work.
However, leaders can now observe, touch, and intervene in teamwork. Their presence motivates, respects, and inspires team members. The framework allows leaders to reiterate and reconfirm their confidence in a future that’s meaningful to the team’s individuals.
You can see all the ways in which leadership matters. With work geographically deployed, only leadership confidence can navigate the roiled waters. Such leaders have earned their self-confidence and a passionate conviction in a future that makes a difference, adding value for all stakeholders. Surely profits are a byproduct of confident leadership as the many benefits of their style ripple through their organizations. For leaders, that vision of the future pulls them forward and inspires their actions, choices, and decisions, to the benefit of all.