Leaders and Managers: Beware of the abominable “no man”

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VUCA world, not vulgar world is correct according to Kevin Roberts Worldwide CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi.  At the World Business Forum in May through sharing a great story he offered leaders present, the opportunity to choose between a VUCA world or a Super VUCA world.

The world in which businesses today operate, is what he terms a VUCA world – Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous. Like me, I am sure most of leaders experience this on a daily basis.  He pointed out that we have a choice as leaders; we can long for the past, hope that we and our organisation can cope and make it through or we can be like the majority of today’s leaders and live and operate in the moment – “right here and right now”.  Kevin Roberts offered us a further choice to lead and live in a Super VUCA world; Vibrant, Unreal, Crazy and Astounding. His point is it’s where we, as leader, choose to focus and concentrate our attention. We can focus on how to with deal volatility and the like, or we can accept these conditions exist and instead engage with our people and create something that is so vibrant, unreal, crazy and astounding that no one dreamt it was possible.

It takes creative leadership.

It starts with language and listening, paying attention to what our people are saying in the moment.  People within many of the organisations we work with report that when speaking with their leaders and manager, the language used demotivates rather motivates, and their leaders often appear distracted. Here is just one example which people raise on a regular basis with us: when managers talk, they start with “this is a problem”.  Using an alternative such as a “we have a challenge” creates a whole different energy and drive to find a solution.  Leaders have to develop the ability to actively listen and use constructive, achievement focused language.

Ideas change the world; Creative leaders need to encourage lots of them on a regular basis.  As Kevin Roberts pointed out, we have all been guilty of being or allowing ourselves to fall victim to the abominable “no man”,   killing off ideas before they had a chance to take hold.

We need to become intolerant of “safe” cultures.  Human beings are powered by emotion and it is emotion that inspires action so we need cultures capable of moving at speed and that allow people to innovate, engage and transform rather than transact.

No leader can ever ignore risk, its effective management is essential. By way of example, the other when day when I was in discussion with leaders in an FMCG organisation they shared with me that two people were accountable for driving innovation while a team of twenty three people were involved in managing risk; this points to a “safe” culture.

Creative leaders make it happen. Today we have an abundance of data and what’s occurring is that leaders are spending up to half their time focused on assessing available data, a third of their time deciding on a course of action and only about twenty percent of their time focused on executing. It should be the reverse where seventy percent of a leader’s time is spent on execution and the balance on data assessment and decision making.  It is momentum that makes things happen and with momentum it’s easier to correct.

Leaders need to provide more than solutions.  Value is added through insight, however, the real skill leaders need in today’s fast paced business environment is to move beyond insight to foresight in order to be able to anticipate where future value can be added. Think about Apple.

Despite the disruptive nature of business, creative leaders are able to create flow by eliminating the unnecessary, inspiring and engaging with their people to take action and deliver.

The final piece for any creative leader or manager is to create other leaders by enabling emerging leaders to set and navigate a clear path to achieve their required goals, access opportunities for continuous learning, and to illuminate for developing leaders areas where they need to improve personally and professionally.

Roberts left us with a choice as leaders: remain one of the abominable “no men” and continue to limit capacity for innovation, or embrace creative leadership principles and with our people create a super VUCA world.

Vivente Australia enables leaders and managers develop the bond between people and performance, creating a powerful advantage: the synergy between people, leadership, management, and culture, produces performance that allows your business to achieve its best.