We need leaders to set the foundations for the future

Managing is easier than leading. It’s easy to master the ability and skills to manage things; inventory, business resources, workloads, people. Many businesses are really good at managing. But leading is different, leadership involves leading human beings, not just managing things. Usually, throughout history, we see a natural emergence of new fresh leaders each year across cooperate Australia; in order to stay innovative, we depend on this. But things are a little different on the business landscape lately. 

As we have moved from one crisis to the next, we have stifled the emergence of new leaders. First, we had the bushfire crisis, then Covid and years of lockdown on and off, we have the backdrop of the climate crisis and we have a loneliness endemic where one in four people report being lonely. Connectedness, real connectedness, is at an all-time low. Add to this the fact that people are worried about spending; so eating out and getting together socially has taken a dip. Many businesses have adopted a hybrid or remote work model where people are no longer getting together day in day out to work together. Work and connecting has become structured, forced and altogether different.

Piece all these together and we have the perfect storm for an environment where emergent leaders who may have otherwise come to the surface, been recognised and flourished, have not. They have instead been locked away at home, without the organic opportunities to naturally share their vision and ideas.

We have become more cautious, and in effect have stifled the conditions for new leaders to shine through and emerge. There is less collaboration. And with the cost of living and less than stable economic conditions, many business leaders are less concerned with leading people and more focussed on the bottom line, share prices, all the things that can result in a lack of vision for the future.

How can we tackle this?

In his excellent talk about the future of leadership in Australia, Professor John Pollaers OAM, Chancellor of Swinburne University of Technology refers to the need to focus on ‘foundational’ leadership, where leaders of businesses do the right things for the greater good, with a vision to make the world a better place, to take responsibility to work towards a better future by creating strong roots and fertile soil as a foundation of their business, to allow growth and opportunity.

Professor Pollaers points to these 5 pillars as the key to creating foundational leadership;

  1. Strong sense of purpose. Purpose has to be something more than it is at the moment. A large number of companies simply borrow a topical issue and borrow it’s purpose using it as their advertising slogans stand in the hope to be seen to stand for a for purpose bigger than they are. ‘Caring for others’ for example is not something that they are actually doing to set the foundation for the future; they are not contributing to that cause in a meaningful way that seeks to genuinely make a difference, they are just using it to sell what they want to sell. How can leaders who truly want to create a business that wants to exist for a purpose that matters to society or humanity build a business that has this as their unwavering purpose? We need emergent leaders who have innovative ways to stand for something.
  2. Affinity. How are we looking to work against the challenges we face that stops connectivity and actually connecting people. How are companies that claim to care about young people bringing them out of their bedrooms and of their devices and connecting with one another.
  3. Interdependence – not just about your willingness to contribute to others but your willingness to be contributed to. Two-way communication is lacking in a lot of businesses as leaders are more prescriptive to their staff and less willing to open the channels of two-way communication. Again, lots of businesses can be seen to do the right thing and create forums where they invite feedback and collaboration, but then they ‘cherrypick’ some of the less risky suggestions, whilst staying closed-off to the vast majority of new ideas and feedback. The balance is not equal and people can be left feeling generally unheard and that leadership are calling all the shots.  Foundational leadership is about true collaboration and creating workplaces where everyone is heard and encouraged to be heard. 
  4. Risk. When our business environments are too safe, we suppress innovation and the chance for new ideas to emerge and flow. Without taking risks and tyring new ways of doing things, we can never evolve. Real change involves some level of experimentation. In order for leaders to set the foundation for new ideas, innovation and creativity, they need to be open to risk and encourage it, not only for the leadership team, but throughout the business at all levels.  We need to develop environments where risk taking is OK. It is also about creating a safe place or environment where people with different risk profiles can speak up and be heard. Often the most innovative and creative people within businesses are those with a higher appetite for risk. Leaders need to find a way to allow those ideas to come to light.

Foundational leadership is needed for businesses today if we want to collectively create a better world. Businesses can have a huge impact on the health, happiness and sustainability of our planet and society. It’s time we focussed on the big picture. Could your team do with one of my tailored workshops? 

Get in touch today. I’d love to help.

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