Article: Rebooting leadership: A Journey of transformation


Rebooting leadership: A Journey of transformation

Unlock the secrets to successful leadership through adaptability, continuous feedback, and effective coaching. This case study reveals key strategies for thriving in dynamic organisational environments.
Rebooting leadership: A Journey of transformation

Navigating leadership challenges in a dynamic corporate environment requires continuous growth and adaptability. This article explores the journey of a seasoned leader encountering unforeseen professional hurdles, offering valuable insights into the importance of flexibility, feedback, and mentorship. Through a detailed examination of coaching and self-reflection, we uncover strategies for maintaining engagement and driving sustained success in leadership roles. 

John was one of the brightest leaders in the company. He enjoyed early exposure, recognition, and rapid elevation into different leadership roles, far ahead of his time. Everyone in the organisation looked up to John as an inspiration because of his career trajectory, the body of work, the kind of recognition, the perks he received, and the aura he emanated. Some leaders were his sponsors, enabling this trajectory as they always believed in him and saw him grow from strength to strength. The young boy they hired from school proved to be a terrific talent for the organisation in the long run. While these leaders have moved on, John continued to thrive for some time with the kind of work he had been doing and, more importantly, the reputation he had created.

John’s challenges and frustration

Lately, John is finding a lot of challenges and is very frustrated because the new Chief of the organisation does not find John as good as he had been rated over the years. John is not open to changing his style or addressing problems differently than what he thinks is the right way. John's team also finds him very rigid and autocratic. Some who knew him over the years have seen him change from a high-energy, optimistic, and talented youngster to a more rigid and autocratic leader. Many of his new team members are scared of being candid with John and feel it is best to align with him rather than not. In short, the team's engagement is going down. All this is leading John to deliver less and less every day. Once the star hitting every ball out of the park, he is now finding it difficult to deliver, leading to more stress from the CEO. The team engagement scores show why delivery is low due to a lack of alignment and engagement.

John’s despair and reflection

John is in despair and has been feeling low for some time now. He has never faced this situation in his professional career. This is the first time in his decade-and-a-half career that he is facing a low phase, and the workplace has suddenly become a stressor for him. Despite his untiring efforts to change, he is not finding success or luck in achieving his goals. 

The situation above is likely familiar to many of us. We have seen many Johns among us, whether as their managers, subordinates, or peers. How do we help John? How does John address the issues and get back on track? There are many positives about John that the organisation can harness, and he can continue to be an asset if he comes back on track.

The coaching conversation

In a coaching conversation, John continued to speak endlessly about his success, the glory, the belief, the pride, and the wins. This enabled John to reflect and understand that continued success had created strong belief systems in him, and his beliefs were his biggest challenge. Every conversation and anecdote in the coaching sessions reeked of pride and an attitude of “been there done that” and “know it all,” to the extent it became obnoxious. The more he spoke about it and the more pointers were drawn to his behaviour of being full of himself, he slowly started reflecting and understanding that he had indeed become full of self-pride with an attitude of “I know it all.” His ability to change, learn, navigate ambiguous areas, and look differently at an old problem which was not getting solved in the new context had gone down significantly.

John started to understand how the feedback from his team about being autocratic and not open to change. He started to understand the frustration of his manager with him not being open to looking at a problem differently. He understood he was solving the problem with an old tool that was successful but not applying the new tool that was needed. He understood that success has a flip side, and he is facing the brunt of continued success which he always wanted but never expected.

Key learnings and takeaways

What happened to John, how he coped with his low phase, and how the coaching helped him to get back on track, as well as the pains he had to undergo to change into the leader he was required to be, will probably be told another day. However, the important part is to understand a few key pointers to navigate a career as an individual and to navigate talent as an organisation.

Success and beliefs: Success breeds confidence but also creates strong beliefs that resist change. Strong beliefs create a know-it-all attitude.

Leadership sponsorship: One leader’s sponsorship and belief create credibility and success, but it often overlooks development areas. Organisations and individuals need to test talent with different leaders and contexts. This enables continuous growth and the ability to change. Development areas show up in time, giving the individual and organisation time to develop, rather than when exposed in a high-intensity role with no time to develop.

Feedback mechanisms: Creating sounding boards and groups of team members, sponsors, mentors, and friends who can give unfiltered feedback on achievements and development areas is always helpful for continuous growth.

Encouraging candour: Watch out for the yes-men or women in your teams. They are the biggest drawback for a leader. They create wrong beliefs in the leader. Encourage candid discussions and be open to feedback from the team. Encourage those who question some of your decisions; engage in discussions, as it can enable better solutions.

Humility and connection: Most importantly, start wearing your badge a bit less seriously. The more seriously you wear it, the more you become distanced from the action in the arena and start hearing less from the ground where the action is happening.

Embracing failure: Leaders' ability to embrace and come out of failure is a very important skill. It enables them to become bigger leaders. Push them harder in different terrains when young to grow them better.

Seeking coaching: Last but not least, get a certified coach when you are in self-doubt or cannot navigate a problem or situation. Often, some help with reflection by a coach can be a great pointer to a turnaround you need.

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Topics: Leadership, Leadership Development, Executive Coaching

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