By Julian Azzopardi
The state of leadership in 2023
2023 has been demanding on all leaders as businesses deal with the ongoing fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic and the developing upheavals within the working environment. Uncertainty is still present as inflation causes concerns for business cash flow, capital investments, and recruitment. Worker mobility and flexibility remains high on the agenda of every organisation as they struggle to find the right formula between office presence and agility.
The state of leadership in 2023 is one that requires purpose, direction, resilience, confidence and a level of humility: skill sets that may sound obvious but central to dealing with constant change and uncertainty.
Top 10 skills for better leadership
Courage & Determination
Leadership takes courage -first out, leaders need to be aware that they are constantly on the spot. When everything goes well they take the back seat, but when times are tough they have to show up and take the fall if needed. It takes courage to say “it’s my fault”, and it requires determination to stick with it. Many ‘leaders’ take responsibility for decisions yet pass on the accountability of success.
That is not leadership. It is not courage and it is not determination.
That is abdication.
If you want to be a leader in 2023, then you need to stand tall and own up, not just to the good, but most importantly to the bad.
If you want a healthy organisation then engagement is critical.
The leader is the face of the organisation, so you have to make yourself visible in person, in your behaviour, and in your language. If your people, your customers, or your suppliers see you say one thing and behave in another, they will lose trust in you, they will disengage with your communication and they will move away from you. Being engaged is about caring about both your words and your behaviour.
Many would say that this is the #1 skill or role of a good leader. I understand why they say that and would add that in addition, it is also about making decisions with purpose, clarity and the capability of communicating the reasoning behind the decisions. This is also about problem-solving and digging deep to understand the root causes of an issue and not just the symptoms. At times, solutions can be quick fixes to surface level issues, with the real problem permeating at deeper levels. It takes sound decision-making and purpose to get to the bottom of things in order to avoid cutting corners. It requires more effort, but delivers greater results.
This is all about the ground work you do before strategic decisions, plans or actions are taken. It is about understanding the game you are in, i.e., the reason why you are in business, the market you operate in, and your customers and truly working towards achieving your company’s overall objective.
Authenticity & Purpose
There are many influences that condition how leadership is perceived from within an organisation and from outside. How much staff, customers, suppliers and prospective employees follow you and your company has a lot to do with the perception of your level of authenticity, and whether they can align with your sense of purpose. Leaders are being asked to be more in tune with their value set because people are becoming a lot more conscious of what matters to them. If a leader’s purpose is not clear, and their behaviour not in line with that purpose, then they will likely lose the engagement of their stakeholders.
In a business environment that is only characterised by change, the ability to pivot when needed and take into consideration others’ perspectives & points of view is a critical skill for every leader. This may require taking certain risks, or exiting one’s comfort zone, but being agile will allow for results to be achieved quicker, opportunities to be seized before being lost, and problems rooted out before they become toxic.
Compassion is about more than just showing empathy: it is about going the proverbial extra mile to do something about it. Understanding one’s concerns is valuable if there is a clear intent to achieving an accepted result. This may be lending an ear to an upset customer, or amending working hours for an employee in a tight spot. It doesn’t mean we always have to have the right answers or solutions, or that we can fix it; it means we are willing to take a further step in enabling the individual we are speaking with to get to where they want to go.
Resilience is difficult to access, especially in uncertain times, but it is essential for longevity. It is something one can train for, just like one would train for a marathon. Building your leadership ‘stamina’ during more certain and ‘quiet’ times is what will allow a leader to weather the storm when it hits. Resilience also has the added benefit of being very transferable: when a leader is seen to be at the front of the struggle, others will follow.
The art of being curious is a nifty skill that can set a leader apart from the rest. The ability to question and see things from different angles is what separates the trendsetters from the followers. Curiosity is a mindset that allows leaders to consider things others have not. It adds fervour and brings a level of excitement to the boardroom table. One word of caution is that at times when too much curiosity is present in an organisation, it may lead to fatigue, uncertainty and overwhelm as everything is questioned and there is no clear direction to follow.
Integrity & Accountability
There is nothing like a leader whose word means everything to them. Integrity is about responsibility,accountability, and an unwavering commitment to doing what is right. It is not uncommon to hear about leaders who say one thing and do another, so the more you are a leader who stands their ground in terms of what their word means, the easier it is for you to follow-through on those words. It is a huge responsibility to be a leader, so take it seriously.
Frequently Asked Questions
How does a CEO affect business?
The CEO is the figure head that leads an organisation. Confidence in a CEO is extremely important for business confidence as it drives productivity. It also enables employee engagement as people look towards the CEO for motivation and alignment, while it also helps grow brand recognition since many associate the brand with the individual at the helm of the organisation.
What happens when a CEO does not lead?
When a CEO fails to lead an organisation can fall into disarray. It can go off course just like when a captain abandons their ship. Business results are affected, staff leave, and the reputation of the business can drop drastically
Can a CEO develop these leadership skills?
All leadership skills can be trained, developed, and honed. It requires willingness and a clear understanding of the cost/benefits that come with leadership. It is not a sprint, but a marathon with, at times, many sprints during the course of the race. If you’re in a leadership position, and want to understand how you can improve your ability to lead, book a no-strings-attached consult with a member of our team, here.