Redefining Leadership – Featured on The Straits Times (4 Dec 2015)

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117827-matte-blue-and-white-square-icon-signs-love-potionRedefining Leadership – What being a leader really means.
This article appeared on The Straits Times (4 December 2015).

Leadership for the longest time has been overstated and over glorified because of the title and perks given to a leader.

However, in today landscape, leadership is returning to its core essence – people. Simply put, leadership today is about people and not the position.

If people do not see you as their leader, you are only someone with a title. If people are not willing to follow you into battle, you are only a one man general.

A conversation I had recently with a managing director of one of the giants in the research industry shared with me that leaders need to have people who are willing to follow them.

If you are such a leader, this means people are willing to be influenced by you without you needing to force them. They believe in you no matter whether you made a right or wrong decision. Their willingness means they have faith in you as a human being, who happens to be their leader.

People leave because of people, but people stay because of their leaders, especially during a crisis. Are you that leader? Only a crisis will reveal the character of a leader and whether he or she is an influential force.

Here are three key pointers to become a new leader of tomorrow.

  1. The New Leader Gives Space.

The leader today need to be willing to let go of their command and control at times. People need space to be creative, and the new leader acknowledges that. However, the new leader does not give space freely. He of she is willing to give their people space to be creative, but expect them to get things to the best of their abilities.

New leaders also give their people the room to learn from mistakes and never to repeat them again. That promotes greater business acumen and innovation since people are encouraged to take risks instead of being penalized.

  1. The New Leader sees 100% in People

The new leader believes in developing people by stretching them through projects and assignment. He or she sees 100 per cent in people and thinks about how to extract people’s talents fully.

With such a leader, people are likely to give 150 per cent of themselves. When a project is finally completed, the people are utterly exhausted. But when asked if they would go through it again with the leader, their answer is yes.

The new leader takes the time to observe their people and identified their natural acumen. This refers to what comes naturally to that person, as opposed to what might require an enormous effort from others. It refers to what the person can do effortlessly without conscious effort.

For example, have you come across someone who is talented in working out complexities and simplifying them so that everyone understands it instantly? The person does it so effortlessly that everyone goes “how does he do it?” And his reply is, “It’s quite straightforward, but I can’t explain how.” That is natural acumen.

  1. The New Leader Connect, Then Lead.

Too often in our fast moving lives, it is tempting to let go of the relationship and focus on the business result. In my line of work, I have come across leaders who are highly competent in their work but low in relationship building. When a crisis comes along, they assumed everyone would do their job. Sure, they will – but not the extra mile required in a crisis because it is just a job.

Someone who connects with the people and led them from the heart is a new leader who can manage both the relationship and the business. A positive relationship built between the leader, and their team creates a strong bond that will stand firm in good and tough times.

When there is a crisis, the new leader is able to have everyone’s motivation fired up, as they pass through a storm, to eventually celebrate the rainbow at the end of the storm. Everyone gets to enjoy that rainbow, which is possible because of the people, never the leader. The leader is a by-product of the process, and he or she needs to be willing at times to be a by-product and not the limelight.

In short, we need to embrace the leader’s mindset to navigate storms and chart new territory. No one island stays the same, and so do the people following us today. It is what you do as a new leader today that moulds the new leaders of tomorrow.