In large successful organisations it’s very easy for mediocrity in leadership to be the norm. It sounds counterintuitive but it’s easy for leaders to lead when times are good, it’s only when you are required to lead in a crisis that the need for competence and demonstrable ability to perform under pressure magnifies. In these times there is usually no place to hide and any mediocrity is often surfaced.
It’s in times of crisis, hierarchies disintegrate, and people follow those leaders that bring down the emotional temperature of the organisation and demonstrate their leadership competence under extreme pressure.
Covid-19 has been a great example of leadership under pressure and we’ve all had front row seats to a world stage observing global leadership in a time of crisis.
What’s been interesting to observe is the impact female leaders have had and the recognition of their skills on a global scale. I’m talking about the female leaders of countries such as New Zealand, Germany, Iceland, Denmark, Finland, Norway and Taiwan.
These female leaders have demonstrated their leadership competence on this world stage and raised the awareness of the value of female leadership like never before.
So, what have these leaders shown the world about how females lead and why organisations need to take female leadership seriously?
HOPE – They know where they want to go and they are strategic about how to get there.
With the backdrop of Covid-19, these leaders have a clear picture of the outcome they seek. They work backwards to understand what is needed and find the pathways to achieve this outcome.
They strategically and calmly communicate the vision that they hope for and openly share the obstacles currently being faced. In creating a plan for their vision, they don’t tell people what to do, they invite inclusion and create a psychologically safe environment for people to speak up and share their ideas on how to move towards this vision.
They recognise that high performing teams are those that feel safe to bring up uncomfortable conversations and share what isn’t working so that better solutions can be identified.
ENERGY – They acquire fuel for the journey and give attention to what matters
They do this by reaching the edges of the community they are serving quickly. They leverage the depth and breadth of relationships they have nurtured to understand what is needed. They don’t let hierarchy slow them down from identifying any leak in the fuel tank – they recognise that ‘snow melts at the edges first’ so weave a web of inclusion leveraging the insight of those around them so that they are quick to identify any potential fuel leaks, identifying challenges that aren’t immediately obvious to see at the centre.
They do this by distributing information widely and they give significant autonomy to those with the best information so that there is clear focus on what needs to be done.
They also are transparent with others on the facts they have and those they don’t – they don’t lose energy by trying to know everything but instead are open about what they do and don’t know and focus their attention on what needs to happen next.
ACTION – They move towards the destination and adjust the course as necessary.
These leaders lay out a clear course of action and they make the case for why this is the chosen course. They communicate messages widely and consistently, and because they have already sought the insight of others and leveraged networks horizontally and vertically in the identification of solutions, they have a network of people already invested and supportive of the intended course of action.
They show courage in their decision making through taking action, they allow for the next best step to be taken, navigating ambiguity with calmness and strength. Their open communication allows for their laid-out plan to be amended when new insights are revealed. Because these leaders have been transparent about what is known and unknown, as new facts emerge, they can amend their course with confidence that people will understand and move with them.
RESILIENCE – They recover quickly from setbacks and show their humanness
These leaders show us resilience through sharing their vulnerability, that they too are navigating the unknown. They show relatability and that they share the risk with us. They communicate a sense of standing with us rather than apart from us.
In being vulnerable they create collective ownership of the challenge and sharing of the risk in the solution. While the course of action might include some suffering on the journey (in this case social isolation) it is a shared commitment to a better outcome.
They share their personal stories and show their humanness by showing us their personal worlds – allowing us to relate to them as people not just leaders. They show resilience and we see that they too are people like us.
TRUST – They cultivate confidence and enrol people on the journey
They create trust through a clear sense of purpose, why it matters, and by bringing down the emotional temperature felt by the community through remaining calm and focussing on the task in hand, communicating extensively and consistently. They share what they see openly.
They cultivate trust by demonstrating their competence. They do this through sharing their own understanding of the situation in an easy to digest way for all and don’t claim to know everything. They share transparently and truthfully and make decisions swiftly and act on them.
They enrol others through building trust and sharing their hope for a better future.
The journey of leadership and performance is all about hearts and minds and female leaders lead with H.E.A.R.T.® (Hope, Energy, Action, Resilience, Trust) and understand their M.I.N.D. (Mission, Insight, Network, Decisions) to make the impact that's needed.
It’s clear to see that there is immense power in female leadership much of which remains untapped as many organisations settle for mediocrity.
There is a clear inflection point thanks to Covid-19, a chance for businesses to play a different game by leveraging female leaders and investing in their development or do what they've always done - talk the talk and pay lip service to female leadership and settle for mediocrity in the organisation.
I’m interested in changing the game for a better future - one that has female leaders claiming their equal seat at any table they wish to sit at - so much so I've made it the mission of my business.
If you are too, I’d love to hear from you and see how I can help your organisation leverage the power of performance in female leadership.