A lot has changed over the holiday period, or has it? Well, we have new variants of the Covid virus, new spikes in the pandemic and virtually all countries struggling at some serious level with purchasing vaccines and getting them in to the arms of their people. And it’s not like everything was plain sailing before the pandemic. We had other pandemics we perhaps weren’t as aware of, like the mental health issues around stress, anxiety and depression, gender and child violence, etc – all of which seem to have been exacerbated by the ‘more recent’ pandemic. Moreover, it’s not like life wasn’t difficult even before these latter challenges became prevalent.
It’s clear from whatever news station we tune into that no one has the model answer at the moment at national and international levels. Indeed, it’s not only governments that are struggling at these times – organisations and businesses are virtually all struggling too as the number of closing businesses and job losses bear testimony to.
It really is a time for transcendent leadership. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the verb “to transcend” as a rising above or going beyond the limits of, triumphing over the negative or restrictive aspects of (overcoming), and being prior to, beyond and above.
That sounds simple enough at first glance! The question is “How”? Various national leaders have shown us that ‘more of the same’ thinking just won’t work at this time, even if the same thinking enabled us to rise above adversity previously. Equally obviously, no one has the model answer. One thing is certain, however, we need to rise above our adversity and, as leaders, this needs to be our primary focus. It’s nothing new – humankind has always ultimately found a way to do this to survive whatever the prevailing ‘plague’, whether it be the real plague, war, or market pressures.
The reason for this seems to be that in the past we were able to, and did, rely on a balance of probabilities – that is to say, based on what had happened previously, we knew or thought that the probability was that something could be relied upon to happen or not happen in the future. It’s different now. For example, just as world leaders were beginning to think they were getting a handle on the Covid virus, a new variant popped up. Another example, just as some industries, and by definition the struggling businesses within them, thought that the relaxations in lockdown regulations would offer the smallest of opportunities to start recovering, the pandemic spiked all over the world and further stricter lockdowns were implemented.
What then should replace probability as our foundation mindset going forward? Well, to my mind, there is only one possibility – and that is to think in terms of possibility! Put simply, we should ask the question, “What are the various possibilities going forward?” We should then choose a few, not as fixed strategies, but as experiments going forward. The chances are that there is no fixed way forward and that even these possibilities will result in further emerging possibilities that we then need to experiment with going forward. Isn’t that what the pandemic has taught us? Nothing is definite until it is definite. Everything (well, many things) is possible though. Experiment – and learn very quickly from the mistakes you will inevitably make!
How’s that for complexity for you! Whilst we feel more comfortable with probability because it gives us a semblance of certainty, the world just isn’t like that anymore. The challenges our leaders face, whether they are world or organizational leaders, have just become bigger. Of course, we knew that cognitively even before the pandemic – we heard various cliches like “No one has all the answers in this day and age” and yet we still sought heroic, often authoritarian, leaders who gave us a semblance of comfort, until they didn’t. Another challenge we now need to transcend!
Again, how? Well, if no one has all the answers today then the solution seems to me to lie in another cliché – “More heads are better than one!” We need to move from the heroic leader to leadership, that is leadership teams. During the course of last year, I saw an article entitled something like “Meet our team of CEOs”. I am sorry that I didn’t take more notice of the author and the contents as I am sure some of my readers might be interested in it! Nevertheless, the title is really instructive and creates a suitable possibility for how we should deal with present and future complexity. We need to ensure that we have a team of the best leadership minds possible, as opposed to the best managers, and they need to take responsibility for the collective leadership of the organisation, as opposed to their respective silos. Leadership needs to amount to more than the aggregate of its parts.
Of course, it sounds so simple on paper. However, to use another cliché, “Every cloud has a silver lining!” The notion of collective leadership provides an opportunity for people to grow both as people and leaders, to mature as individuals and as teams, into what is required by the organisation in order to transcend the challenges. Better leaders, better world!
Accordingly, I have designed two Transcendent Leadership Coaching Programmes that I believe from my forty odd years’ experience in leadership roles and leadership coaching will enable leaders, and prospective leaders, to help their organisations transcend their challenges and adversities in the current and future environment. I invite anyone interested to contact me on email (email@example.com ) or WhatsApp (+27 82 9007 482) for a free thirty-minute discovery chat where we can explore your needs and the programmes further.
I look forward to hearing from you.
In the meanwhile, please take care wearing your mask, washing your hands and social distancing seriously at this time. Keep safe and keep well!