Having worked in corporate for almost 25 years, there are some things I know with absolute certainty. Leaders constantly face new, complex challenges and the pressure to perform at our best is enormous. And it never lets up. As a leader, you need to future proof your performance.
Strong leadership skills will get you far. But it’s not enough. High performing leaders need both leadership agility and mental toughness to continue performing at their best even when more is expected of them.
While globalisation brings great opportunities, it has also brought increased complexity. Cross border teams are the norm resulting in teams being more spread out and increasingly diverse. Multi functional teams and matrix reporting lines require leaders to engage with many stakeholders just to get work moving ahead. Roles are sometimes unclear and often leaders have to lead and influence without direct authority.
To keep up with business needs, organisations are also moving more towards to a borderless workforce. The PWC Talent Mobility 2020 and Beyond report highlights an increasing trend in short term assignments, often lasting a year or less; and project based assignments where selected employees are brought together for a specific project, sometimes requiring temporary relocation.
The report also shares an increasing focus on growing talent from within, with two thirds of CEOs saying that it’s more likely that future talent will come from internal promotions vs external recruitment. All this is great news if you’re a leader who is resilient and can adapt quickly as it opens up more opportunities for advancement.
Broadly speaking, leaders fall into 2 categories in terms of their ability to perform under challenging conditions.
Those without an adequate range of leadership skills or lack the resiliency to thrive under difficult conditions will not be able to sustain their performance long term.
These are leaders who struggle to keep up with the increasing rate of change and complexity at work. They don’t have the right skills so they spend most of the time fire fighting and become unfocused and reactive.
Or leaders could be coping. But it’s just that – coping. Which means they’re just managing to keep their heads above water. But unless these leaders learn new skills, their performance will not keep pace with increased expectations and they will not advance much further.
Even for those leaders who are doing well, over time, when we have to constantly tread water just to stay afloat, we’ll get worn out. And when we get worn out, we won’t be able to sustain our performance in the long run.
This category of leaders have unsustainable performance and will miss out on these new broadening opportunities.
Future proof your performance
When you future proof your performance, you’re ensuring that you are empowered with the right skills and mindset strategies to be a more flexible, agile and resilient leader. These are the leaders that CEOs will tap into for their future talent pipeline.
The tipping point is when we become empowered to handle new challenges with ease. When we have broadened our leadership skill set so that we can adapt quickly and perform even in unfamiliar conditions. This is when our performance leaps forward to the next level.
Leaders who are Agile can respond quickly to changing needs and are able to adapt their leadership approach when working with different personalities, styles or cultures to get the best from them. This allows them to handle increasingly complex assignments with ease and confidence.
At the top rung are Resilient leaders who not only have these skills, they are also mentally tough. Resilient leaders have a clear understanding of who they are as a leader which feeds their self belief. They have the stress resilience to not buckle under pressure and are adept at managing self doubt to bounce back faster from setbacks. This is when we realise our full potential.
“Change is the only constant” – Heraclitus
To do well in today’s complex and changing environment, leaders who are resilient and can quickly adapt their leadership approach will future proof themselves to stay ahead of the pack. Just keeping up is no longer enough.