There’s no getting around it: these are tough times to lead in. But tough times are great times for leaders who embrace the challenges. Great leaders shine for two reasons: (1) they confront the toughness in all its reality, and (2) they don’t let that reality derail them. They use a framework in their pursuit of great leadership (see an earlier blog on why you need a framework for leadership), and in the toughness of our times, they see opportunities for growth. Here are five challenges—unique to our times—they confront and embrace:
The Expectations for Leadership
The honeymoon has never been as brief. At almost every level of business leadership, leaders are like rookie quarterbacks: they don’t have the luxury of time their counterparts enjoyed even 15 years ago.
But great leaders think ahead: they don’t wait for the promotion to start adjusting to the expectations—they have already thought about how they will exercise leadership in that role before they even get there.
The Scope of Leadership
Companies – not just the big ones – operate in multiple countries in multiple product markets. But the scope is not just geography —it’s also people. More people report to fewer leaders. Leaders carry more responsibility, yet have less time to think about how to fulfill those responsibilities.
But great leaders see this not only as a development imperative, but even more as a development opportunity. They realize that their role is to develop more leaders, and so they actively engage in developing others.
The Scrutiny of Leadership
The scrutiny has never come from as many sources—often simultaneously: the government (in its many forms), financial markets, shareholders, customers, consumer groups, the press, employees, the community, and, of course, social media.
But great leaders aren’t fazed by this: they welcome the scrutiny as feedback and accountability. Feedback, in their minds, is a gift, and they welcome it—whatever its origins.
The Structure of Organizations
Multiple alliances and partnerships (acquisitions, mergers, joint ventures, outsourcing) have complicated structures, processes, and transactions. A company may be a competitor in one instance and a partner in another. The sheer size of organizations complicates the task of leading them.
But for great leaders, this is an opportunity for developing leaders and building collaboration.
The Rate of Technological Change
Moore’s Law still holds: the amount of computing power at a given price doubles approximately every 18 months. That mirrors a growth in technological know-how that for early Baby Boomers doubled barely twice by the time they graduated from high school. But for their Gen-X children, it has doubled ten times between the time they were born and the time they graduated from high school. And for their grandchildren, who knows how many times it will double in the same timeframe?
But great leaders acknowledge this pace of change—and use it to nurture the innovation and creativity of those around them.
Learn to Lead!
Don’t let the toughness of our times deprive you of the greatness within your grasp. Learn to lead—your success depends on it.
After graduating from a business and engineering school in the UK, Antony worked in production management for a British textile company. He then completed his Masters in European Economics and Business Institutions at the University of Strasbourg, France. He worked as a sales manager for a Swiss company, and then started the division in Eastern France for a Dutch brokerage business.
In all this, Antony’s interest was in developing leaders, and after he came to the US in the late 80’s, he worked as a subcontractor for a training organization. He worked with hundreds of people in many different organizations, helping them lead and change their organizations. It was during this time he was struck by the confusion around leadership and how many leaders were struggling with the challenge of leading in very complex environments. Antony’s pursuit became one of finding a way that would help them the most make sense of the confusion, and that led to the creation of LeaderDevelopment, Inc. (LDI) and the subsequent development of the LDI Leadership Framework.