(You can read more about where this graph comes from in the earlier posts in this series, here, here, here and here)
This changed scenario – from a slow recovery in 2011 to an even slower one extending into 2014 or so, has wrought changes in the nature of sustainable leadership that many leaders feel uncomfortable with, and which cause a sense of alienation – a feeling that this isn’t what they signed up for.
Here are the five main culprits:
The fragmentation of the synchronous team.
Most leaders are so because they value the act of leading (duh). Yet it is increasingly harder to get the endorphin release that comes from the act of leading when teams are scattered, asynchronous and subject to high turnover.
The loss of ‘loyalty premium’.
Many leaders – especially Visionaries highly value building a loyal team around them. Tough times dilute the leader’s ability to achieve this, both through enforced turnover (losing good people in workforce reductions) and because there are more ‘life events’ (financial imperatives, mostly) that cause good people to leave and go elsewhere.
An emphasis on RO-something.
Leaders want to create. They’re not so fond of curating. Financial constraints, budget cuts and missed targets push the leader’s role away from creativity and toward management of resources.
The loss of a narrative arc.
In most organizations the last few years have felt like hitting the ‘reset’ button over and over again, with little opportunity to build a consistent leadership framework. Somewhere in all leaders’ subconscious is a desire to leave a legacy – a body of work that amounts to something more than a series of unconnected activities. For many leaders, that ain’t happening right now.
Simply put, what’s happening ‘outside’ – firing people, and learning to do more with less…and less…and less – isn’t congruent with what happens ‘inside’ a leader – the desire to experiment, to motivate, to expand and to grow.
What to do?What can you do if some or all of these factors are causing you to feel alienated in the new leadership landscape? Maybe nothing, maybe a little. Truth to tell, probably not a lot. The reality is that some of these changes are at least semi-permanent (I’ve listed them above in likelihood of permanence), and none of them will change quickly – in my view, certainly not before 2014.
If you feel like this, here’s my best shot at your options – an encapsulated overview of how I’m coaching leaders who feel alienated by the current leadership climate:
1. First, reconnect with your original vision – is your heart still in this? Are you sure you want to continue?
2. If so, then make an inventory – which of the five things above are bugging you most? What else? (There’ll almost certainly be one or two ‘alienation factors’ that are unique to you and your position.)
3. Next, prioritize what’s ‘missing’. Look at your inventory of alienation factors – which of them can you live with for the next few years, and which positively, absolutely need to change for you to be happy and satisfied?
4. Having identified your priorities, look around. Can you reshape the environment, now or later, to make the changes you need? If you intensely feel the loss of a close-knit team, can you bring that back? If you need to get away from doing more with less and back to creative expansion, how can you make that happen?
5. Finally, if you can’t change the current environment to meet those prioritized needs, can you can you move to a new environment entirely, to achieve what you want?
Good luck. We need leaders now, more than ever.