In deciding what I wanted to write about in this article, I have chosen to write about leadership in today’s world. I am not talking specifically about 21st century leadership or even leadership over the next 10 years. I am talking about leadership right now and in the near future.
For a frame of reference, I am writing this article on June 11, 2010. With COVID-19 still an issue worldwide, with economies needing to recover and protests, and with looting and riots taking place surrounding George Floyd’s death, I feel it is important for me to address some leadership practices that will help unify people rather than divide them, regardless of race, gender, or religion.
I do not have a particular order for my suggested leadership practices, however I did intentionally put “Be Inclusive” first. Around the world there are protests happening because people of color do not feel like they have been treated fairly or equally. Regardless of what you call it, if this is how those people really feel, then something wrong. No one should feel discriminated against, no matter who they are and no matter the color of their skin.
“Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.” – Warren Bennis
As a leader, it is your responsibility to support people to feel included within your group or organization. This happens through education, policies within the workplace, and most importantly – through the actions of leaders. Regardless of the color of your or anyone else’s skin.
Do What Is Right, Not What Is Easy
As a leader, it is important that you do what is right. Being a leader is hard. And in this present day, it is even harder. People are being pushed to extremes due to the present day events. Should I still wear a mask? What if I want to protest and the protest turns into rioting or looting? I am being told I need to keep my business closed but I am so close to losing everything; what do I do?
These are all hard questions that I cannot give a hard and fast answer for. You need to do what is right, not only for you, but also for the community you live in. This could mean that you wear a mask outdoors when you are around people or you start a GoFundMe page to raise money so you can keep your business closed a bit longer.
Or, you may decide to open up your business after all and accept the consequences. In making these decisions, you will need to examine your ethics, morals and values and act accordingly.
Watch Your Microbehaviours
As leaders, we need to practice what we preach. This is so that we can remain congruent and gain the trust and respect of those around us including our followers, our colleagues and our supervisors.
When I was doing my Graduate Certificate in Values-Based Leadership, there was a person who talked about microbehaviors. Microbehaviors are those small things that we do that demonstrate what our values, ethics, morals and principles are. These microbehaviors should match your espoused values and beliefs, or you will be incongruent to those around you. And, people will notice this!
Have you ever had a boss who expects people to come in early for work (or at the very least – be on time) while the boss is chronically late? What do you think of that boss in terms of their tardiness? What about the boss who says that due to the Coronavirus people should wear masks for public safety but they never wear one themselves and claim that they don’t need to? What does that do for their credibility?
Watch the small things you do each day. It’s part of leadership in today’s world. Make sure that what you do matches with what you believe in. As I said earlier, people are paying attention!
There is so much information and misinformation going around these days that – as a leader – it is your responsibility to aid your team in learning facts rather than fiction. This means that you need to promote education and learning around the “hot topics of the day”. For example, in today’s context, you need to support your staff in learning about topics such as COVID-19, racism and what “defunding the police” actually means.
This can be done in a couple ways. First, you can gather the information and pass it along to your staff. While this may be the easiest way, I recommend a better way. Get your staff or members of your group to research a particular topic (for example: White Privilege) and share it with the rest of the group. This way, you may be able to tap into someone’s interest and support them in becoming Subject Matter Expert or reinforce their expertise in a particular topic.
Then, incorporate what you have all learned into your leadership practices. Wear a face mask when you are around people or honor maximum crowd size limitations. This will role model to your staff that learning needs to be put into practice and not back on the shelf.
Mindfulness is the practice of being in the moment. The more chaotic things are, the more important it is to be in the moment.
People are relying on you to make good decisions and separate fact from fiction and feelings. That is your job. When things get crazy, stop, relax, take a few breaths and focus on the task at hand.
For example, when I worked in a treatment home, I often needed to practice mindfulness when I was dealing with an aggressive client. If I got caught up in the situation, the client’s behavior could cause me to escalate to a level where neither one of us would be in control. I needed to stay calm, relaxed and focused on de-escalating the situation.
If you are caught up in emotions, you will most likely make decisions based on feelings rather than facts. And, we can see many examples around us of what happens when this is done.
When ruminating about leadership in today’s world, these are five things you can do to stand out as an effective leader. We are in unprecedented times that threaten the way we live. However, there are numerous opportunities for leaders to stand up and stand out in a way that can shape society for the better in the months and years to come. Be one of those leaders!
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