Why many leaders are digging in, exerting control and fueling "The Great Resignation" at a time when we need to re-connect and build trust with one another.
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Before I get into this, I have a question for you: what’s the very best thing that’s happened in your world this year? Please do leave a comment or send me a mail - I’d love to hear about what you’re up to and how you’re doing.
How are we all doing?
Collectively, not so great it seems! At a time when we need to trust one another, work more closely together, be hugely experimental and courageous, many leaders and leadership teams are digging in and exerting control where they feel they have some sense of agency - with their people.
It’s understandable, however, it’s fueling “The Great Resignation” or what I’m beginning to think of as ‘the great reshuffle’, depending on where you are in the world.
If we’re the ones exerting control or behaving badly (consciously or not) because we’re under stress or pressure, experiencing resistance from others or being called out for being controlling or micro-managing is almost guaranteed to get our egoic knickers in a knot.
We may then double down and apply more pressure or withdraw and disengage completely, which further fuels a negative spiral of disconnection. The polar opposite of what’s needed right now.
If we think about it, two years of having to be short-termist, tactical and transactional is an exhaustingly long time. It’s also just enough time to develop some not-so-great habitual ways of thinking and being, which are hard to shake, unless we become aware and do so intentionally.
Change is hard, even when we really want it. Think of simple things like eating more healthily, less time on our screens, saying “no” when we need to or even being patient with people we find vaguely irritating.
It's even trickier when we’re not fully aware. Our context or environment, e.g. the pandemic, our company culture or even working from home, slowly but surely creates a new personal operating system, silently, subconsciously running the show in the background, shaping our every decision and interaction.
I was at a dinner with friends recently and the conversation turned to people and organisations we would absolutely love to work with and why. We also talked about “wasted years” working with badly behaved or deeply uninspiring leaders in toxic cultures and how we would never subject ourselves to that again.
We shouldn’t be surprised by The Great Resignation. We’ve been on this trajectory for quite some time. Cast your mind back to the rise of Conscious Capitalism, Conscious Leadership and Business as a Force for Good well over a decade ago.
What the pandemic has done is to crystalise our unwillingness to tolerate bad leadership, unhealthy cultures and relentless short-term thinking in relation to the extraction of value from people and the environment.
It’s a really, really interesting time to be in business.
We want to work with open, collaborative, connected leadership teams who hold purpose at their core and are able to bend and flex, adjusting in real-time to what's going on in the world.
And that, as we all know, isn't easy. But it's so worth developing.
When leadership teams are able to simultaneously look ahead, identify what's needed now to meet the future and be intentional about developing, together, things get much easier for everyone. Progress is measurably faster and yes, it’s hugely stimulating and enjoyable.
“Deliberately Developmental Organizations will become the gold standard in the 21st century. They will be the places people clamor to join, the cultures others seek to emulate, and the head-turning drivers of spectacular results.” Dr. Robert Kegan
The canary in the coal mine…
When we think of what we need to develop today to meet the needs of the future, executive search/recruitment companies and leadership consultancies are really useful business barometers.
The first, executive search, is often “the canary in the coal mine”, the early indicator of danger or change. As an ex-headhunter, I experienced this first hand during the dot com bubble. When companies stop retaining and hiring, there’s usually a slowdown or even a crash coming and when the roles they are seeking to fill change shape, there’s a shift in how they see the future playing out.
Explore: The most in-demand jobs in the UK: LinkedIn Jobs on the Rise 2022. You can also check out the Jobs on the Rise in other countries.
The latter, leadership consultancies, are more ‘on pulse’. Assuming they're responsive rather than prescriptive, the types of engagements being delivered are hugely insightful as to the state of an organisation’s leadership team, their culture and the environment they’re navigating.
Looking back over the timeline of significant world and business events in 2020 and 2021, the most in-demand focused Leadership Team Engagements reflected what we were all dealing with at the time (and will continue to work with this year and beyond):
Women in Business and On Boards / DEI (Harvey Weinstein conviction and the #metoo movement)
Time to Pivot (at the start of the pandemic, the need to re-think, reimagine, re-engineer and re-purpose our businesses/careers)
Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (sparked by the killing of George Floyd / #blacklivesmatter and #1👆 )
Resilience and Mental Health (the very human impact of the pandemic)
Psychological Safety & Trust (the impact of remote and now hybrid working)
Conscious Leadership & Business (sparked by COP26 / sustainability / BCorps)
Connected, Cohesive Teams (the great resignation / re-shuffle & navigating complexity)
We’ve also seen a rise in demand for workshops on developing our mental models including Sensemaking, Futures Thinking, Agile Thinking, Systems Thinking and Innovative Thought & Action which we often bundle together and include in our engagements.
🤔 A mental model is an explanation of someone's thought process about how something works in the real world. It is a representation of the surrounding world, the relationships between its various parts and a person's intuitive perception about their own acts and their consequences. Wikipedia
And what’s next? How can we prepare for what the future might hold, now?
Work Better. Together.
If we think about our big, beautiful messy world, full of ordinary people like you and me, juggling life, trying to make sense of it all and be better leaders, one thing is clear - we need deeper connections, stronger communication skills and greater cohesion. People work way better, together.
”The biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” George Bernard Shaw
Whilst needing to work as a team is certainly not new, our world and business contexts most definitely are. Developing a cohesive leadership team is a powerful, smart foundation, no matter what the future holds.
The Active Meditation
When you wake up in the morning, imagine your day and all of the people you’re going to meet, both arranged and unexpected and send them love. As you go into a meeting room, get onto a Zoom, make a call, walk into a store or get on a plane, train, or in a car, do the same. It will change your brain chemistry, how people respond to you and the shape of your day. Try it for a week and please come back and tell us what happened?
💡 FYI - I’m starting a short, weekly newsletter on LinkedIn called #LIFT at the end of this week. There is a great deal of insight and wisdom I come across in my work and as a contributor to the Grey Swan Guild, which is worth sharing in real-time.
I’ll continue taking a monthly deep dive into business leadership themes and topics here on Substack, including the occasional Podcast, Conversation on Camera and free resources designed for my community.
Please feel free to comment and share your insight with us and if you know of someone else who would also enjoy this edition of LIFT, why not share it?
Until next time, take good care of yourself.