Recently I had the good fortune of attending a Leadership conference by the author and best seller of the book ‘Everyone Leads’, Chris Lowney, a one-time Jesuit seminarian and a former managing director of JP Morgan. At the conference Chris lead us through the evidence that we are living through times of hyper-change, in many facets of our lives. He went on to say that these times can be captured by the acronym VUCA, short for Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous times. He stated that in such times we need a new style and culture of Leadership.
This style entails everyone seeing themselves as a leader, wherever they are in the organization. It contrasts to the traditional hierarchical concept of the leader being at the top of a pyramid in the organization. He argued that the traditional style is too slow and inadequate to address the repercussions of a VUCA situation. I could easily have identified with this concept having lived through the turmoil that is TT over the last few years and recognizing that everyone expects someone else to solve all the problems.
Chris insisted that everyone had to assume leadership in their position, in society or organization. This leadership style embraced a few characteristics. It must be accountable, entrepreneurial, service to others oriented, embrace using your God given gifts and requires honest self-analysis. One of his many powerful quotes was that of Nelson Mandela ‘my greatest enemy was not those who put me or kept me in prison. It was myself. I was afraid to be who I am’.
This leadership style dovetails with other leadership styles that I embraced before the conference, The Servant Leader by Greenleaf and the Adaptive Leader by Cambridge Leadership Association, the Collaborative Leader. In all these Leadership styles, the focus is on helping empower and motivate each other to tackle the enormous amount of work that organizations need to handle change.
I believe we can all use this knowledge and leadership style to achieve success in these times of hyper-change. Those in authority must stop thinking they have to possess all the answers, while others do not have the ability to contribute meaningfully, and we, the others, must stop saying to ourselves, that’s not my job, I do not have the authority. Leadership today is a collaborative exercise where each one uses his or her talents to tackle the seemingly insurmountable problems that plague our society such as crime, corruption, low economic growth and an influx of migrants. And those of our organizations such as slowing sales, low productivity and low investments. Accept the challenge – ‘You are a Leader’