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There is no shortage of ‘Trends to Watch’ lists doing the rounds at the moment as our COO, Carryn Ortlepp, explored a few weeks ago in her article. Over and above some of the key trends we considered, the Lockstep team also unpacked their views on the Future of Leadership over the next decade, and what we see is an even stronger focus on businesses wanting to be a force for good in this world. Not just as a governance tick box exercise, but to be good at every single level within an organisation. 

As we navigate the new decade of leadership, leaders will be required to be braver than before. It will require different leadership skills to the ones in the past and, for most organisations, it will be greatly beneficial to cultivate their leadership competencies in a very specific way. 

My belief is that if leaders are going to step up and integrate this brave new way of work into their business, there are three essential leadership skills leaders will need to master. 

Skill 1: Checking their perspective

If we look at the root meaning of the word perspective in Latin, it means to look through or to perceive. We develop our perspective, or way of looking at the world, from all the influences in our lives – our family origin, education, religion, privilege – and we tend to replicate our patterns of thinking regardless of changing circumstances. 

If we don’t actively widen the lens of how we see the world, we are likely to cultivate a very narrow view of what we think is right and true. This could result in highly consequential errors of judgement. 

Acknowledging the perspective we hold opens us up to a whole new world. It gives us the opportunity to note our biases and intentionally seek out the perspective of others so that we can broaden our horizons and views.

Checking your perspective doesn’t negate your opinion but it does mean that you actively and openly listen to other people’s opinions, noting how you respond emotionally, and cognitively. This skill doesn’t only happen on the ‘fly’, to fully check their perspective, leaders need to invite more stillness into their lives with a willingness to notice their unconscious reactions and actions.

Skill 2: The Ability to Hold Tension

The second skill that leaders need to master is the ability to hold tension. If we ‘check our perspective’, we will naturally widen our world view. If we’re going to widen our world view, we are likely to be in situations where there is ambiguity or where things seem paradoxical in nature. Our tendency as humans is to always seek out the neatest answer – regardless of whether it is the right or wrong answer. The quick fix of finding an answer may not be the best solution. 

Often holding tension means that we can’t categorise things into neat boxes. The invitation to leaders this decade is to invite tension (or ambiguity) into the workplace and become creative with the way they make decisions and lead their teams. 

In my personal and professional life, I have found that by embracing tension, I’ve been able to think more deeply about relevant issues, hold complexity for longer and navigate ambiguous situations more creatively. I’ve also become far clearer in my leadership as a result of holding the tension rather than seeking out the perfect answer.

The third skill that is important to be a leader in this next decade: the ability to be joyful in our work.

Skill 3: Joy

Joy in our work is not to be confused with happiness although we may have a sense of elation when we close a big deal or do work we feel proud of. Joy is the deeper connection we have when we’re doing work that sustains us, work that speaks to our core desires and gifts. 

When we find joy in work, we perform to our fullest strength and power and are likely to feel fully engaged and in sync with our purpose. Joy also brings us sustained energy, allowing for truly powerful conversations to take place and greater fulfilment in our lives overall. 

This may not seem like a ‘skill’, but spending time reflecting on our purpose, and reasons for doing the work ensures that we don’t get caught up in daily minutiae, is definitely a leadership skill that takes conscious effort.  The impact we have on business, society and ourselves matters. Being cognisant of our impact has the ability to live with more purposed intention. 

When we’re working in a world that shifts continually, keeping orientated towards the bigger picture gives us the chance to stay joyful and purposed, rather than bogged down. As a leader, ensuring that teams are aware of the purpose of their work, how they are contributing to solving a challenge and encouraging each individual to do their best work is a core leadership skill that can be developed. 

Joy can also be found when times are challenging and, over the last few years, I’ve learned that one can experience a great amount of joy and extreme sorrow at the same time –  in fact, our lives are richer for these experiences. Practising gratitude in our places of work has a direct correlation on joy.

When we intentionally lead from a place of gratitude we feel lighter (amidst the challenges) and are able to operate in a more soulful way. The act of being a force for good in the world is what makes the sorrowful times more manageable, and the successful times more meaningful. 

As you can tell, these skills are inter-connected. In order to broaden our worldview, we need to be able to hold more tension and ambiguity, and we’re more likely to be comfortable with tension or ambiguity if we’re feeling joyful and purposed in our work. To be successful in balancing these skills, we need to be realistic about how our business and teams are performing. We can only address challenges – in business, in relationships and in our teams – if we’re fully aware of the reality we face. 

It’s clear that business ambition and optimal performance are more easily achieved when paying greater attention to these three Leadership skills and in order to master these skills we need to keep them front of mind – continuously. 

  • Am I looking at all perspectives here? 
  • Does this work fulfil mine and our organisation’s greater intention in the world?
  • Is this a problem I can solve, or do I need to stay with this uncertainty? 

For most people, having a leadership coach or person they can use as a sounding board is useful for developing their leadership skills. I’d love to have a conversation with you if your team would benefit from more focus on their core leadership skills. You can email me directly to: anne@lockstep.co.za

Anne Hartslief

Anne Hartslief

Anne Hartslief is the Managing Director at Lockstep and leads the Gold Standard Executive Team programme.  Anne brings operational experience, business performance and an understanding of human behaviour to her role at Lockstep.  She believes that high-performing cohesive Executive leadership teams spread influence throughout the organisation, acting as a powerful point of leverage for success.