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As the Cultural Demographic Shift™ expands across the nation, most leaders lack the readiness to see diversity and inclusion as a profit center rather than a traditional cost center. In fact, many believe that leadership is quickly becoming extinct. Leaders are becoming less relevant as their businesses lose their competitive advantage with the workplace and marketplace and not just with shift populations. These leaders are focusing solely on what they assume is their own best interest when they should be learning how to serve the unique needs of their employees and customers.
Rather than strengthen their competencies to lead more effectively, many leaders look for short-cuts and leverage their authority and title to get by. Instead of being founts of knowledge and inspiration, many of today’s leaders just spout rhetoric. They use lots of fancy words and trite catch phrases meant to impress but just create confusion and alienate people. Employees and customers alike have grown tired of false promises – and as the political climate in America demonstrates – anger, frustration, and dissatisfaction are rising to the surface. Choosing those false promises and not the vulnerability they need to genuinely connect with those they serve, leaders thus find it difficult to earn trust and build meaningful relationships.
The results of all this are ever-widening performance gaps, missed opportunities companies and leaders cannot see, and the inability to anticipate uncertainty and manage change before circumstances force their hands. To avoid this outcome and an unproductive workplace that runs the risk of losing top talent and customer loyalty – leaders must start refocusing on the following three core leadership competencies:
1. Be an original
Many leaders continue to manage by the templates of old and cannot evolve to be the leaders their company needs. Those templates have stripped them of their identities and left them uncertain about who they are and how to face change. We must anticipate the unexpected to welcome change in order to evolve. Leaders need to stop mimicking others and create their own distinction – they must become more original in their thinking.
Brad Lea, Founder/CEO of LightSpeedVT, has built a successful business model around originality. “Original leaders are pure thinkers that are passionate about converting differences into opportunities,” he explains. “They are fueled by the common sense that most people lack; what makes them uncommon is also what makes them exceptionally impactful. When you come right down to it, originality is about being yourself – and encouraging others to be fearless enough to be themselves too.”
2. Be courageous
Most leaders would rather talk about what needs to change or improve, rather than roll-up their sleeves and take action. We must learn to commit to being more vulnerable in order to be more courageous to take action. We must be passionate in our pursuits to explore endless possibilities.
Your courage as a leader will be measured not only by the path you create for yourself but by the wisdom you share to help others along their own path. Courageous leaders teach others how to be courageous themselves – to fight through the uncertainties in business and in life with perspectives they can relate to from the past that will see them through their own journeys.
3. Have a legacy mindset
Leaders talk about the importance of sustainability, but how can you sustain anything without being legacy-minded? For many leaders, leaving a legacy is associated with the end rather than the beginning of their career. But your leadership is not shaped and your legacy is not defined at the end of the road but rather by the moments shared, the decisions made, the actions taken, and even the mistakes overcome throughout the many phases of your career.
At each stage of your career, you learn how to keep creating sustainable impact and influence. The best leadership legacies are a consequence of success coming to those who are surrounded by people that want their success to continue. When you can inspire those around you to take a leap of faith with you, you are creating a legacy-defining moment in your leadership career that ultimately defines the path towards success and significance in your career and the legacy you leave behind for the associates and customers you serve.
Developing these three competencies will give leaders a fresh leadership identity – one that provides clarity and understanding in how we can best solve the requirements to evolve (ourselves, our teams, and our customers). Our leadership identity defines how we can most authentically and effectively influence business outcomes. We must trust ourselves to share our leadership identity with a generous purpose to improve our well-being and elevate our overall satisfaction at work for the betterment of our employees and customers.
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