7 leadership lessons that stand the test of changing times
Executive Head at Momentum Metropolitan’s Retail Life Savings division (i.e., Investo) Stanley Gabriel, writes about his leadership philosophy in a time of extraordinary change and even more extraordinary resilience.
In today’s hybrid-driven world, the leader is no longer the one who sits on the most comfortable chair in the biggest office shouting orders. The true leader of today is the one on the ground connecting with their people, understanding what makes them effective in their roles and then elevating that strength towards a shared purpose.
As a leader in my business, I have always seen my role as one that guides rather than dictates.
Over the years, I have had the privilege of leading many people, and have successfully navigated the turbulent seas of numerous economic storms powered by the winds of change.
As I began to muse about the qualities of a leader, and how this frenetically changing landscape impacts the qualities of leadership, I decided to dive deep into my own style of leadership and pull out the lessons that have stood the test of time … even in these times.
I hope these principles can help guide other leaders to grow their own worth as well as that of their employees, but most of all, I hope I can inspire all who read this to lead well in all aspects of their lives:
Kindness doesn’t mean nice
Of course, as people, it is often too easy to fall into the trap of being kind and treating everyone like your best friend. However, it is also too easy to venture into the other extreme by eliminating kindness from your professional interactions and instilling fear and trepidation in those you lead.
I have found that kindness is key, but it should not be mistaken for ‘being nice’. To be kind you must have a clear stance and never beat around the bush. Respect your employees by giving it to them straight and really listen to them when they speak and get to know what drives and motivate them on a personal level.
Connect your functions
Since agility is the word of the era, as a leader it is your job to connect across functional areas. A change in any area of a business can cause a domino effect. It is your job to understand how your strategic decisions cascade throughout the business. So your job is to make sure everyone is aligned towards that goal, across functions, and that reaching it is what informs the decisions everyone takes.
Flatten the structure
Although you are a leader, you are no more essential than any other employee in your business. We have moved away from overly controlling hierarchical structures where information hoarding leadership styles stifle the abilities of our employees to solve problems with haste.
Instead, we need to foster a more open and networked style of leadership with flattened structures that present fewer obstacles between executives and frontline employees.
Share your purpose
Why are you in business? What role do you play in society and how does that resonate with the people who propel your organisation towards this purpose. By establishing an official purpose statement, you can then rationalise your need to exist. But this purpose needs to resonate with your employees.
If you aren’t all aligned to a shared purpose, you will never tap into their full potential. Build it together and get everyone’s buy-in. Don’t just do it once and forget about it. Make sure you regularly, at least once a year, relook at your purpose statement and question its applicability to your mission within the context of the times.
With purpose comes culture
Culture is directly linked to purpose. We build a culture that is driven by the passion we have for our purpose and our desire to grow our impact. Yet, culture is never static, it shifts and shapes with the times as our societal needs change.
The last few years have taught us that culture also needs to be rooted in empathy. It hasn’t been an easy run after the pandemic rocked our world, but with a caring culture that is built on understanding and empathy – our people can go from strength to strength along with our shareholder outcomes.
Leverage the uniqueness of people
You should never try to get people to be different from who they are. Your mould is not their style and that is okay. Let them be themselves and help them grow according to their own ambitions.
As much as you envision the growth of your business, people will ultimately decide if they want to be a part of that growth.
Trust and acceptance
Trust needs to be given up front. I know it might be difficult for many leaders, but we hire people on the basis that they can do a job. Trust should start from the beginning and then the evidence can determine if it is deserved. Some people may take advantage, but you can’t pretend for too long.
With trust comes acceptance. Accept yourself as a leader and trust that you and your employees are enough. Never be afraid to do it your way, don’t worry and speak up when you have an opinion. You are enough. They are enough. Success will come.