Leaders, regardless of title or application, have always been – and always will be – expected to produce results. In today’s very different world, however, leaders need to produce results in a fundamentally different way!
Gone are the days of the heroic individual leading from the top. Nowadays, decision-making is much more decentralized within organizations which position leaders to empower and enable their people. Leaders armed with only limited old-style leadership techniques aren’t accustomed to giving up “control” and completely missed the memo that having true people-skills, often referred to as “soft-skills” – are now especially critical for today’s leaders to get the most from today’s followers.
These “soft-skills” or, “people-skills” specifically refer to a wide range of competencies and capabilities, leaving many leaders confused about what they entail. This should not surprise anyone since most hands-on leaders who rely on their more authoritative approach are hardly the type to make the sudden leap to a more people-centric style.
In the absence of formal training, leaders often operate by employing more directive methods that they were managed/led with in their work history. Once they assume higher levels of responsibility, they are reluctant to listen to the scientific research findings of the past 10 years which is reporting that far better results come from becoming a more empowering leader – most of these types of leaders have a difficult time adapting.
How can leaders who fall short on soft-skills develop a more enabling style?
The truth is that there is no one moment when everything suddenly snaps into place – there is no Saul on the road to Damascus here. Most transformations involve study, application and experimentation to broaden a person’s repertoire of the different styles of effective leadership and people skills that Lisa Arnet presented at the Pastor Training session.
That said, there are predictable stages and challenges along the way.
- The first stage is referred to as the Departure, during which the leader recognizes the need for a change and deliberately starts to gather information and to leave behind familiar ways of working/leading.
- Then comes the Journey, a time of transition during which the leader encounters obstacles and trials that teach important lessons and open the path to transformation.
- The New Leader
arrives with a new understanding of who they are, what kind of leader their new skills allows them to become and when they begin to transfer what they’ve learned to others!
More on the Departure
Research suggests that leaders alter their habitual ways of doing things only when they become aware of a gap between their current reality and where they need to be. The catalyst might be an event or feedback from colleagues. But typically, people embark on a concerted effort to change only after multiple experiences and conversations make them realize that their behaviour is impeding outcomes they care about.
The impetus to change can come in other ways. Some leaders recognize the need when they observe people with more-developed people skills – usually in the context of an organizational shift toward a more empowering culture-and discover that these new skills and behaviours help them to achieve valued results.
It’s also important to note that many leaders initially underestimate the extent of change required and need the help and perspective of a trusted partner – an adviser, mentor, or a coach. Not everyone reaches the departure stage. And the ones who do embark on the Journey will discover it requires humility, self-awareness, patience and resilience to complete it – but the rewards are innumerable and life-changing for everyone.
More on the Journey
Having watched and assisted many leaders through this stage, those who succeed in making the transition engage in three key practices.
- Creating a new context for learning: Leaders will often put themselves in situations where they have no direct authority and so are compelled to develop a more indirect, empowering style. This is called outside-in learning.
Example: Take on a project with others where you have no history, and you must adopt a more collaborative manner.
Leaders can also transform their style by taking skills they have developed within their own teams and using them more broadly. This is called inside-out learning.
Example: Attempt to learn and apply active listening, recognizing and managing emotions, asking Socratic-type questions more than telling people what to do and how it should be accomplished.
- Enlist Assistance: At every stage of development, to really change, you need mentors and partners to discuss outcomes, options, feedback and next steps. You need someone who can hold you accountable and who can lift the mirror. (For more information on the Priest Mentor Program, see bottom of article for Dcn. Gary Andelora and Jerry Casillo contact information)
- Persisting through setbacks and learning from them: The line to any finish is rarely straight – always focus on small wins and watch them accumulate! By demonstrating the potential of your new style and eliciting positive feedback, these small wins start to quickly shift the leader’s motivation:
- From Necessity – “I need to communicate better.”
- To Possibility – “I’m working on communicating better because it will help myself and everyone around me to accomplish our goals.”
- To Identity – “I’m communicating better because that’s who I want to be!”
These subtle changes help leaders become more self-reflective and trusted!
More on the New Leader
The moment of being a New Leader arrives after acquiring new lessons, trials, feedback, setbacks and recoveries. Then, the New Leader internalizes a more empowering leadership style which is a genuine reflection of their new selves and can employ it across the board in both professional and personal situations which will positively impact the lives and achievements of countless others.
More than ever, we need leaders who can harness skills, ingenuity and foster engagement.
While it’s not an easy transformation – it is indefinitely rewarding for so many!
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