Leadership in Troubled Times

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Leadership, in one form or another, has been a strong theme. Political and economic twists and turns have brought leadership across Europe into the spotlight. At home, politicians from all parties are looking for ways to rise to the challenges presented by the bleak economic outlook and have questioned the values underpinning the prevailing culture.

It is not just in the world of politics that the quality of leadership, and the values and behaviours displayed by those who would call themselves leaders, has been called into question. The sporting world has been rocked by examples of poor leadership and nowhere more so than in the high profile fields of rugby and football. The leadership, culture and values driving parts of the tabloid press have been exposed publicly and caused widespread revulsion and alarm. The list goes on.

Furthermore, despite the apparent lessons of recent years, major companies still in find themselves the spotlight for poor behaviour, poor performance and apparently excessive pay and bonus packages for senior management and, the stark and ever growing, pay gap between CEOs and workers.

An increasing body of opinion is challenging the ‘old order’ and demanding an end to the ‘fast buck’ mentality. High profile challenges to the status quo have come in the form of Occupy Wall Street and the St Paul’s protest in London, and a far wider body of opinion is beginning to demand political and corporate polices focusing on the wellbeing of the many rather than the few.

The need for change has never been more apparent and the big question, as the new year gets well underway, surely has to be: where do go from here? For me, and a growing band of leaders worldwide, the answer is clear. We accept that traditional models of leadership are failing and we build a new framework for leading, inspiring and empowering others, based on firmer and more sustainable foundations, and we do this by taking ego out of the boardroom and out off the office.

Traditional models of leadership created the state we are in, with trust in short supply and the relationship between organisation and employee more fragile than ever. They have left too many employees marginalised, disengaged, and unwilling or unable to fully commit to the organisation of which they are part. Perhaps not unsurprisingly, leaders are not rated highly by the organisations that employ them. A recent CIPD survey of Human Resources professionals revealed the rather bleak fact that only 18 per cent considered the leadership of their organisation to be high quality.

We must act now, and act quickly, to restore trust and create a culture which fosters talent and inspires and individuals, teams and organisations. Ego-less models of leadership provide our best, and most probably only, chance of achieving this because, unlike senior managers subscribing to traditional models, ego-less leaders look beyond the self to create balanced, sustainable and high-performing environments. In moving beyond the ‘me’ and embracing the ‘we’ they create environments in which employees and organisations flourish.

Ego-less leaders foster trust and bring clarity, empathy and authenticity to the workplace. They are sensitive, aware and capable of conveying vision and engaging followers, and they show equanimity in even the most trying circumstances. Concentrating on allowing others to achieve their full potential rather than their own advancement, these leaders have a profound impact on those around them. If you have ever met someone who leads from an ego-less perspective, it is very unlikely that you have forgotten them.

The fact is traditional models of leadership have proved themselves short-term, self-rewarding and unproductive and have had their day. A radical new alternative is needed; one which delivers excellent results for individuals as well organisations and that is focused on truly engaging employees, nurturing talent and on sustainable outcomes. Ego-less, or Conscious Leadership is that alternative. I believe the question then becomes, ‘Is your ego holding your leadership potential hostage?’ If so, I can guarantee that developing a more ego-less style will unlock a whole new level of professional success and personal satisfaction.

New book, ‘Egoless: The Final Frontier in Leadership’ is released tomorrow.

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