What constitutes effective leadership has changed in the post-pandemic era as people reassess the role of work in their lives.
We are all experiencing increased levels of uncertainty and complexity. Global shocks - war, pandemics and natural disasters - have far reaching consequences. Organisations struggle to service their customers as global supply chains are disrupted. Leaders experience increasing levels of negative emotion from frustrated clients and stressed staff. Individuals feel burnt out, lost and disillusioned with their workplace.
So people ask themselves, is this all worth it?
Some just turn up to work and do the minimum. These are the working wounded. Some jump the fence to a paddock which looks greener. Others reassess their whole lifestyle and change completely.
The common thread is an existential crisis. A re-evaluation of all domains of life including the role that work plays. A shift to consciously integrating work into life rather than just doing a job. We are now in the era of meaning. It wasn’t the great resignation. It was the great renaissance.
This shift presents a significant challenge for organisations and leaders. If only we could connect individual aspirations with organisational objectives. What if we had leaders who could sensitively navigate the subtle inter-connection between the motivation of individuals and organisational outcomes?
Welcome to the era of Meaningful Work.
In today’s world people know that they need to work as it provides money, social interaction, and a sense of achievement. However, they don’t want to feel that their time at work is inconsequential. They want to experience meaningful work.
A meta analysis of empirical studies on meaningful work1 found that when we perceive our work as meaningful our engagement and job satisfaction increases by 74% while our commitment increases by 75%.
Fortunately we have been studying meaningful work for several decades and through empirical studies in psychology, sociology and management we know the elements that constitute meaningful work.
Which naturally leads us to the next question, what is the role of leaders in all this?
Leadership for meaningful work
If people want - and are motivated by - meaningful work, then the art of leadership is to create the space where people can experience meaningful work.
We call this Meaningful Leadership and it is underpinned by the four capacities that leaders require to be truly effective in today’s world.
Inner capacity. Becoming a great leader is difficult. To start, we have to let go of all our technical knowledge we have built over years to let others be the expert. We then need seemingly superhuman levels of empathy and patience. And this development journey of becoming a great leader never really ends. As we mature through the experiences we have at work, so too does our leadership effectiveness increase. Leadership development then, is first and foremost a process of human maturation. We have to do the deep inner work to challenge our worldview, build our identity as a leader, and develop techniques to make sense of the world around us. We need to be intentional about our leadership behaviours, be aware of our shadow-side, and refine our emotional intelligence skills.
Relational capacity. Meaningful connections are at the heart of what leadership is all about. It is possible to form deep relationships with every person. First we need the right mindset, one that sees the positive in others and the tactics to help them develop not only for their current role but also their career. Second, we need a suite of micro-skills that allows us to communicate in all forums to a diverse range of people. Knowing when to listen attentively, when to articulate our thoughts, and choosing the most appropriate approach for each specific context are essential facets of successful leadership.
Task capacity. Leaders need to get things done. Success hinges upon individuals delivering their best work and teams operating at peak performance. Effective leaders set the bar high, challenging individuals and teams to surpass their own expectations. They inspire collaboration, fostering a culture where teams work together harmoniously within their immediate spheres and across the entire organisation. By cultivating an culture that encourages cooperation, leaders harness the collective strengths and talents of their teams, enabling them to achieve remarkable results.
Context capacity. Navigating the complexity and uncertainty of today’s landscape requires leaders to develop a strategic mindset that allows them and their teams to make sense of and adapt to their changing environment. It also means working at the right level of work and balancing operational priorities with strategic imperatives. A critical role of leadership is to support others through change. They must inspire and motivate others, build resilience and champion continuous improvement.
We believe that everyone has the potential to be a great leader. Right here today, however, each person is at a different point in their development journey which is why we have invested so much time in the design of our programs, to ensure that not only are learning outcomes are achieved but sustained behavioural change is embedded.
Our Meaningful Leadership program is a blended delivery methodology involving workshops, e-learning and coaching over period of time. Leadership development cannot simply happen in a once-off event. Leaders have an engaging and interactive experience through a range of participatory processes that builds a rich learning environment and leads to personal insights. Moreover, our programs are practical. Proven tools and techniques are shared and supported through one-on-one coaching so that they are embedded.
The world is crying out for great leaders who are empathetic, supportive, and inspiring. Leaders who are, quite simply, great humans.