The 7 Leadership Traits You Need Now to Face Inevitable Change
If there was anything that the pandemic has shown us, it’s that change is as inevitable as death and taxes. But at least with death, you have nothing more to worry about.
When it comes to change, the biggest challenge we have is understanding that our fixed mindset is our biggest handicap. To counter the changing forces in our business, we must adopt flexibility and innovation as key drivers. Complacency and inaction are the death knell of our business.
In today’s article, we will uncover the traits of real-time leaders and the role we have to meet the challenge of change head-on.
A Snapshot of Failure
Anyone older than a Millennial grew up enjoying “Kodak moments.” Eastman Kodak Company’s traditional film photography once dominated its industry with 85% of the camera market share and 90% of the film market share. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that Kodak was the dominant force in the industry.
However, with the rise of digital photography, a technology they helped pioneer, their sales declined. Kodak was slow in adapting to change and according to the University of Cambridge Research, it suffered from the “perfect products” mentality. The leaders at Eastman Kodak were so steadfast in their belief that nothing could replace traditional film. They could not fathom a future without traditional photographs. In 2012 when Instagram was gaining in popularity as a photo-sharing platform, Kodak filed for bankruptcy.
Kodak’s fall is a powerful example that not even global giants are exempt from change. Leaders who fail to understand the new changing realities and aren’t adaptable can easily find their businesses losing market share. Think Blockbuster, Sears, Polaroid.
The Leader’s Role
Like Kodak’s “perfect products” mentality, many leaders suffer from the “perfect manager” syndrome where the boss thinks he knows all the answers. Unfortunately, in the real world, no one person has all the answers. Leadership has its limitations, and the only way to overcome them is to put our egos aside.
Steve Jobs once said, “I don’t hire smart people to tell them what to do. I hire smart people so they can tell me what to do.”
As leaders, we should be able to admit that maybe our operating approach isn’t working. Are we ready to open our minds to what’s actually happening?
Before any progress can happen, this awareness must be accompanied by a willingness to admit what is working and what isn’t. We need to grow and educate ourselves as leaders not just in hard skills but also in soft skills where we learn to truly connect with people and learn from them.
By the same token, as a business leader, surround yourself with a variety of experts you can talk to. Learning from others and being guided by mentors with differing perceptions and experiences can be a powerful source to keep from falling into complacent thinking. Vistage in the U.S. and TEC Canada here in Canada enables you to network, learn and share in a safe confidential setting.
Traits to Leading in Real-Time
Leading In Real-Time author, Michelle Ray, identify some of the essential traits that every leader must possess if they want to stay relevant and thrive in a radically changing world.
1. Real-time leaders intentionally build relationships with their people.
The intention to connect with your people should be greater than your strategic business plan because, without their support, you wouldn’t be able to achieve a successful strategic plan.
This was the lesson Ray learned from the example of one relational CEO. His executive assistant told her that he’s constantly writing notes to people, sending out cards to them and personalizing his communication. He was intentional in building relationships despite having a workforce of 2,000. His priority was to connect with his leadership team to find out what was going on with their teams. Sometimes, unexpectedly he’s shooting the breeze with other employees. As a result, his people were so drawn to him that they experienced a very low turnover in a highly unionized environment.
This investment was tested when they made a huge shift during the pandemic. His team fully supported him to look for new opportunities, and he brilliantly supported and leveraged their strengths towards digital transformation to accelerate what they were already successfully doing.
2. Real-time leaders love people and are outstanding communicators.
Leaders can have a great deal of resistance when it comes to involving their employees. “I don’t have time. I’ve got so many things to do.”
Communicating with people and making time for them is at the top of the agenda of effective leaders.
“Stop worrying about the minutiae and get in front of people and communicate with them. That to me makes a world of difference,” explains Ray.
3. Real-time leaders are authentic, transparent and humble.
Effective leaders draw their team to the best version of themselves. In order to succeed, leaders must be authentically honest about the fact that they don’t have all the answers and tap into the knowledge and genius of their teams.
When we present ourselves as a human capable of making mistakes, our staff can relate to us and are willing to contribute.
Being self-aware allows us to identify our unconscious biases, behaviours and mindsets. Nothing is going to change if we don’t recognize how our own biases are interfering with how we run our business.
“Understanding yourself is the key to having success as a leader,” says Ray.
Paired with being authentic and transparent, humility enables us to admit our shortcomings. Humility gives us the courage to tell our teams that we are committed to improving and encourage their feedback.
Check out my Interview With Michelle Ray
4. Real-time leaders are consistent and trustworthy.
Trust has always been the key to great workplace relationships. If you don’t trust people and are not trustworthy yourself, you have a relationship problem.
“Leadership is not about your title. Leadership is more about your character. It doesn’t really matter what the title on your business card might say. It’s all about who you are to your workforce and your team that matters the most,” says Ray.
5. Real-time leaders increase their accountability and credibility.
One of the challenges faced by Zoom users during the early part of 2020 was getting Zoom bombers dropping into meetings. This was causing a lot of disruptions for users.
The CEO of Zoom, Eric Yuan, went public and acknowledged that there was a problem. He took responsibility to apologize and vowed to do everything humanly possible to rectify it. He didn’t turn a blind eye or make excuses. He admitted that “this is a mistake and a lesson learned.” The teleconferencing company Zoom released its 5.0 version in April 2020 with stricter security features and released 100 new safety features on July 1, 2020.
“When he did that, it increased his credibility quotient because credibility is something that we are constantly earning, and it’s not something that you have just because you’re a CEO,” says Ray.
6. Real-time leaders take ownership.
In a public live stream in April 2020 Yuan said, “Clearly we have a lot of work to do to ensure the security of all these new consumer use cases. But what I can promise you is that we take these issues very, very seriously. We’re looking into each and every one of them. If we find an issue, we’ll acknowledge it and we’ll fix it.”
People really expect that a leader takes ownership. They take the lead and take responsibility for situations that cause problems for their stakeholders.
“I believe the word ‘accountability’ gets a bad rap. Says Ray. “I think it needs to be seen as a positive, and that’s what it is. We use the word ’empowerment’ a lot, but what that means is giving somebody ownership so that they can grow. It’s not about saying, ‘Hey, you’re the nearest warm body, and I want to give you this dirty job to do because I don’t want to do it.’ Delegation is not abdication.”
7. Real-time leaders focus on what’s in their control.
As leaders, when we focus on what’s within our control, it becomes one of our most potent contributions to our organization.
“You can control the type of leader that you are. You can create a great environment where people want to work. You can attract the best people based on that culture. All of these things are 100% within your control. That’s where we want to spend our energy,” says Ray.
The world is full of failed and obscure companies. Being prepared for inevitable change means that we must first look inward to ourselves as leaders. Understand where our thinking is limited and tap into the genius that is our team.
About Michelle Ray
Michelle Ray is a highly sought-after international business keynote speaker, entrepreneur, author and educator who advocates the importance of developing leadership and accountability skills, regardless of one’s title. She is committed to helping her clients in an array of industries create engaged workplaces, develop exceptional leaders and implement practical strategies to revitalize their cultures.
Michelle has been featured in renowned publications such as Inc., Investors Business Daily, the Globe and Mail and has appeared as a guest on numerous TV and radio programs including WCBS Opening Bell Report. She is the author of Lead Yourself First! Indispensable Lessons In Business and In Life and Leading in Real-Time – How to Drive Success in a Radically Changing World
You can reach Michelle at: www.michelleray.com