I can't keep up!

I can’t keep up!

It is dazzling how fast things are moving and happening. Change that used to happen over years and decades is now taking place in weeks or days. We as humans have never dealt with change of this magnitude or at this pace and our linear way of thinking is being challenged by the speed, and the complexity of the change.

'What got us here won't get us there' has never been more true. And who still believed in the all-knowing heroic leader who will get us out of the mess, is proven wrong for once and for all. Not a single leader holds all the knowledge, experience and skills to lead us into the emerging future and can anticipate the constant change all by him (or her)self (and if you think you do, please read on or scroll straight to point 1 below :-)).

As change becomes more and more pervasive and perpetual, there is a need for a new kind of leadership. One that is better equipped to lead our rapidly changing organisations and work places,  manage our physical and mental health and well-being, and focus on the major trends and challenges that shape our future. On top of that, this new kind of leadership requires leaders to be able to develop the necessary resilience, cohesion, and collaboration in their organisations to perform at the highest levels, while change, by its nature, leaves people and organisations feeling anxious, confused, vulnerable, and divided.

How do you do that?

By being human.

1. Admit you are not perfect.

Yes, really. You are only human too.

Let go of the idea of being the indispensable, perfect, infallible Leader with a capital L. Instead of showing power and control, show humility and authenticity. Feels counterintuitive when everyone is looking at you for what to do? As long as you have a view of the horizon, it's okay to be open about the things you are unclear and uncertain about. In fact, it creates trust, psychological safety and it empowers others when you do that. This in turn will drive shared learning and intelligence, resulting in enhanced collective performance and leading to better solutions for all.

2. Listen with empathy and curiosity

Change is scary. Humans don't like it. So when lots of change is happening, a good leader listens and shows empathy. It might feel as if it's slowing you down, but it is a key step to contain the anxiety and understand the powers at play that might sabotage collective performance. 

Also, listen with curiosity: a good leader is no longer someone who brings his own knowledge to the table, but someone who ensures that all the knowledge sitting around the table is shared. So be open to differing ideas and perspectives on the challenge at hand. It will increase team and organisational learning and enable effective navigation through complex change, driving better performance.

3. Give meaning

At the end of the day, all humans long for a meaningful life. When we contribute to something that is important to us, we feel fulfilled. Leaders who bring values and purpose into the organisation enhance focus, cohesion, and resilience and this particularly is important in times of massive change.

When it feels as though everything is changing it helps to be reminded that we are all connected by an underlying set of values that are always relevant, no matter what is happening around us. Values can support us to navigate change by reminding us of what really matters.

Being humble and authentic, listening with empathy and curiosity and giving meaning are human skills we all have access to. A healthy dose of self-awareness, an adaptive mindset and clarity on individual and organisational values is how you develop them and successfully change as things change.