“Growth and comfort do not coexist,” says Ginni Rometty, the CEO of IBM with the implication that leadership is taking on things that a person has never done before. And that ordeal would certainly not offer any kind of comfort. The first step taught in any leadership class would be to step out of the personal comfort zone to test ourselves and to embark on the journey to become a leader. The leadership style has to differ according to socio-cultural constructs that exist in the scenario where a person has to take up the role of a leader.
Changes and coping strategies
Changes are inevitable and are indifferent to whatever they influence be it a workspace or a basketball court, which makes adaptability the best coping strategy. It is important the team members understand the current trends in the work environment and it also important to understand that the changes are all the part of growth and should be embraced. It is in scenarios like this that effective communication is much needed. The management should be able to convey that the changes are welcome in the environment.
Communication is also the prime factor becoming an effective leader no matter on what the demographics are. The message of the leader should always be delivered crystal clear to everyone concerned so that there are no glitches in the requirements demanded by the leader. The unsaid but known fact in the work environment concerning leadership is that no matter what goes wrong whoever the reason may be, the leader will always be held responsible. It is important to the management that both the leader and the team members recognize the existence of this fact. This recognition would help in the creation of a rapport between the leader and the team members, a vital factor in the running of a smooth team.
A leader should always listen to the culture, which changes according to the topography of the work environment. All the actions of the leader should be based on this understanding. It affects even the small aspects like a simple question like “how are you?” to a worker. In the scenario of American workspace, the question is just a formal greeting, but in a different country or continent, it may be taken as a caring inquiry to gain information about the health of the worker. These perceptions that play are essential to working culture.
Another example would be the Southeast Asian work culture where unexpressed gratitude is taken as an insult and also scolding an employee in front of other employees is also considered insulting. A leader who is knowledgeable on this topic would never commit such errors. Another edge that can be gained in the process of understanding the culture is gaining the knowledge about the needs of the locality which enables the management to cater to the needs of the people of the region making the business more efficient. So culture is the key.
Empowering leadership is one of the most effective projections of leadership and the authority the role offers to the individual handling the role. It requires the leader to be an empowering character who uses the authority with care and responsibility. Any leader can become an empowering leader with some gestures and attitude adjustments. An empowering leader will never hesitate to show appreciation whenever any member puts in an effort no matter how minor. Handling issues with a rational mindset are also the signs of an empowering leader. This rationality should be reflected in the scenarios where there is a reason for aggression from the part of the leader, in such situations the leader should be able to glide past the phase of aggression and be ready to inquire first and keen on obtaining the complete truth of what had happened and how. This approach from the leader will build trust between the leader and the team members and instill a feeling in the team members to not to let down the leader down again.
Another critical element in being an empowering leader is not to assume anything or underestimate any group member according to personal bias or on the basis on how individuals project themselves in the team environment. Where the main strategy would be to ask and not tell. This would help in a personal assessment of a team member who themselves will talk about their skills and strengths, which then can be put to use accordingly by the leader
Leadership is a subject which has been talked about a lot but the strategy discussed here gives it a universal direction. This is much needed in the world of corporate leaders who have to transcend beyond geographical and geographical borders of a work environment. And in that transcending journey of theirs, they can be effective leaders by never assuming anything and always keeping an eye open towards the socio-cultural context of their work environment.
(The article is based on a masterclass by Kimo Kippen, Former Chief Learning Officer, Hilton on Leadership lessons from around the world at the People Matters L&D Conference 2018)