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Judith Germain

The Maverick Paradox

Maverick Catalyst

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Why leadership is the most critical skill HR needs to develop in a constantly changing world

The pace of change today is more rapid than ever, which is why good leadership is the most critical skill HR needs to develop.

Every organisation knows that their success relies on having employees that are able to respond appropriately to the shifting priorities that they face. They need leaders that are inclusive, tolerant of different perspectives (including neurodivergence), who can lead with integrity, empathy and passion. Their leaders need to be skilled at aligning individuals to the company’s vision and mission and be able to strategise, innovate and execute against a forever-shifting plan.

While many organisations are concentrating on mandatory skill training as a method of upskilling the organisation, I would argue that the real critical skill that the organisation needs is effective leadership.

Is this a tall order? Enter HR, the department tasked with ensuring that the organisation has the critical skills (effectively deployed) within the workplace. HR professionals recognise that for many organisations this means a change of culture, leadership style and perspective, and they will design or hire in leadership programmes to address this need.

We need better leaders

One thing that the pandemic has shown us is that organisations will only survive if they have appropriately skilled individuals in charge and a culture that supports change. This takes time to develop, and to start that journey it is vital that businesses understand the factors that are driving change. These include:

  • Late millennials and generation Z employees now make up the majority of the workforce, so the power is rapidly shifting to these employees. This means that the workplace culture that oversaw the demise of the psychological contract has resulted in a workforce who will no longer be treated as machines without feelings.
  • Employees are demanding a collaborative workplace where managers and leaders are inclusive in nature, tolerant of difference and are able to engender trust.
  • An increased demand for organisations to authentically demonstrate that they are ‘working for the greater good’ of all its stakeholders. This is especially true of local and global communities.
  • We need leaders who are eager for change and can lead effectively in an increasingly complex world. We need leaders that can work with the unexpected and a level of uncertainty that has been unprecedented in the past.
  • Global movements such as #BlackLivesMatter, #MeToo and increased awareness of mental health issues are a sticking point. With the increasing phenomenon of employees’ home lives having a prominent place in their working lives, leaders need to be able to anticipate and flex with these major shifts in attitudes, and the demand from workers to bring ‘their whole selves’ to work, which brings personal set of complexities to the organisation.
  • A requirement for HR to be able to assist the organisation in working with these shifting priorities and be able to provide strategic and operational support to the whole organisation.

The six decisions that every leader must make

While many organisations are concentrating on mandatory skill training as a method of upskilling the organisation, I would argue that the real critical skill that the organisation needs is effective leadership.

This one skill makes it possible to have engaged, passionate employees who make the right decisions, and leadership teams that set a strategic direction for the organisation that everyone follows. HR can enable leaders to exhibit this critical skill by ensuring that all leaders demonstrate that they have made the following six decisions of © Maverick DRIVEN Leadership™: 

1. Determination

All good leaders have a healthy dose of determination, and the will to succeed. Determination allows us to prioritise what is important and enables us to use failure to inform success and meet our commitment to others.

Enabling the workforce to work towards the organisation’s objectives individually and collectively is a critical skill of HR. You can start this process by ensuring that the leaders understand how to align the organisation’s objectives with their employee’s.

2. Reputation

Good leaders see themselves as role models and, as such, are tolerant and inclusive leaders. They are also known for their competence, and ability to get things done efficiently and are well respected. Having leaders that have a reputation for success enables others to trust their leadership, even when the pathway does not seem clear to them.

HR are role models to the organisation and can mentor other leaders to be the same. When a leader isn’t trusted, employees often second-guess their motives or agenda, slowing down workflows. HR can bring a level of transparency to the workplace that enables trust to become an effective currency.

3. Influence

All leaders use their influence to persuade their followers to cooperate with them and enable their followers to execute their wishes. HR can ensure that leaders understand people and the dynamics of influence and persuasion and teach them how to use their influence.

4. Versatility

Good leaders are versatile in their approach, thinking and in their implementation. Great leaders remain flexible, reject dogma and adjust to changing circumstances on the fly. HR enables leaders to become innovative and they encourage diversity of thought. This is perhaps the most critical skill HR can assist the organisation with.

5. Execution

Effective leaders ensure that they or their employees do not get so wrapped up in an idea that they forget the necessity of completion. HR can help leaders stay on track and not waste time and resources by not determining the method of execution or whether the execution of an idea will achieve what it was designed to achieve.

6. Narration

Effective leaders have a talent for storytelling and will also provide a narrative as to what is happening, as it’s happening. This ability to translate and pace actual events enables them to influence the actions of their followers.

This influence increases participation through encouragement and explanation and referencing vision and the need for change. This narration facilitates a highly engaged leadership style where the employee feels inspired and protected by the leader. HR needs to encourage this relationship.

HR can bring critical skills to the organisation so that it can flex and thrive in a constantly changing world. To do this they need to ensure that the critical skill of leadership is developed and adapted for the rigors of this decade.

Interested in this topic? Read The leadership revolution: why it’s time to embrace a ‘radical mindful’ approach.

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Judith Germain

Maverick Catalyst

Read more from Judith Germain

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