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A note from Carryn Ortlepp, Locksteps Chief Operating Officer:

Our senior consultant, Tom Dawson-Squibb is currently based in Australia and working with the Melbourne Rebels for the duration of their Super 15 campaign. Tom’s role involves working with the leadership of the Rebel’s team as well as the individual players in their personal leadership work as professional rugby players,

Tom has also recently travelled to India to work with one of the teams in the IPL and we asked him about his most recent thoughts on leadership based on his time abroad.

For those who have not been to India, it is one big assault on the senses – a fascinating assault. Just driving around gives new meaning to the concept of ‘organised chaos’ – you definitely need to learn the art of acceptance!

As much as my time in India was an assault on my senses, it was also an assault on my belief systems. Is what I ‘know’ right? As a leader, and an enabler of leaders have I truly interrogated my ‘way’? And, more importantly, am I willing to be adaptable? This in my view should be a question for all leaders.

I am constantly diagnosing leaders. She is strong-willed, impatient but gets results. He is compassionate, at times too flaky but creates a great warmth in the organisation. These are just examples of me as a leadership practitioner describing a leader’s ‘way’.

Now there is nothing wrong with having a way, in fact, some would say the best leaders all have strong principles. However, it was Nelson Mandela who said, “I never deviated from my principles, but my strategies changed all the time”. What India highlighted for me again is the need to adapt, and adapt fast.

Systemic team-coaching expert, Peter Hawkins talks about future-back and outside-in thinking. Essentially asking  ‘what does the organisation of tomorrow require from its leadership in order to succeed?’. The job of the leader/leadership is then to adapt current behaviours and processes in order to serve that future need.

We often still glorify leaders who have their ‘way’- the turnaround specialists or the people who ‘stick to what works for them’. I offer that that may not be as useful in an increasingly uncertain, multicultural, and multi-generational workplace. If I had a dollar for every leader who spoke about ‘the millennial problem’, I’d be a millionaire!

As indicated in the title of this article I believe it is worth beginning to look firstly at the needs of the people you are leading and of the society within which you lead. The second step is to then marry those needs with your authentic leadership strengths when creating your ‘way’. By acknowledging their needs and using your strengths effectively, you will add the best, and most necessary, value.

The leader’s process needs to look a little more like the following:

  • What are the needs of this organisation/team in its current and future state?
  • What are the cultural norms that are both present and emerging not only in the organisation but also within the society?
  • What are the unique strengths that I can bring to this challenge, and what part of me would need to be tempered?
  • What blind spots exist in my ‘way’ that I might need to fill by way of co-opting fellow leaders or through another mode of up-skilling?

Search for the right way more than your way, and you will likely find that you become known as someone who truly makes an impact. This goes for leadership at all levels and is a wonderful ongoing process that, while it may require deep discomfort at times, will certainly lead to massive personal growth.

Good luck and get busy interrogating.

Tom Dawson-Squibb

Tom Dawson-Squibb

Tom Dawson-Squibb is a Senior Associate at Lockstep. Tom has a deep commitment to nurturing up and coming leaders as culture champions within their organisations. He is also the lead facilitator for the Aspiring Leaders Programme – a bespoke 5-month programme designed to develop young leaders and harness their power to positively impact an organisation. For more on the Lockstep Aspiring Leaders Programme, click here.

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