The leadership landscape is dramatically shifting as the business community is seeing a transformation accelerated with Covid-19. This shift in dynamic requires a higher leadership IQ and a deeper understanding of what I consider the new rules of leadership.
The trends in the 21st annual 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer, a trust and credibility survey conducted by the Edelman Data & Intelligence, show that consumers, employees and the public expect more from companies and their leaders. And that trust has shifted from the government to the private sector, squarely on the shoulders of business, company CEOs and their senior leaders as 61 percent of respondents ranked business as the most trusted institution.
There is minimal room for error given the high trust that has been thrust upon business and leaders need to make sure that they continually meet the high expectations such as safeguarding information quality or taking a position on societal issues such as racial justice.
Below are the four new rules leaders need to consider as they ready for the challenges of tomorrow:
Rule 1: Develop Empathic Accuracy
There's a term called empathic accuracy (EA) which is the ability to accurately understand the thoughts, feelings and emotions of others. It's difficult to serve those who you don't understand. There are two questions every leader should ask themselves: Do you understand your market? Are you broadening the landscape of understanding?
As a leader, you own the wins and losses equally -- that's the totality of ownership. And with leadership, most aspire to score more victories than defeats. There are a number of leadership traps that new and old leaders can fall into such as, not reading the room well or treating people as if they are disposable. The more you understand people, their point of view and the value they bring, the better you can avoid needless leadership stumbles and have more productive conversations as well as outcomes.
Rule 2: Enhanced Intellectual Curiosity
Intelligence is important but it does not trump experience, for experience informs intelligence, and aptitude allows those learnings to be applied. Yet, I've met many leaders who think their proficiency in one area translates to all others. Just because you're great at coding doesn't make you great at business development, for example.
Too often leaders rely on their intelligence without factoring in subject matter expertise and experience. I call that intellectual arrogance. If you work long enough, you will see the fallacy of weighting intelligence over experience.
To counteract intellectual arrogance, leaders need to constantly strive for curiosity. Learning, asking questions and getting more information is the best way to stem overestimation of understanding. There's also humility and vulnerability to acknowledging that one doesn't know everything.
Rule 3: Connecting the Dots
There's something called the ivory tower syndrome (ITS), where leaders become out of touch with the people they manage and the customers they serve. At times, we may think our lived experiences are synonymous with everyone. It's important not to subscribe to that belief.
Ask yourself, when you strategize, does the planning process take into account the full talent of your organization? Are you making decisions in isolation? Does your team provide the diversity of views needed to see around corners to make the most informed decisions and are you listening to them?
If you're cut off from others and your workplace culture has a decision-making matrix that is homogenized, you may not be unleashing the fullness of the talent in your company and are limiting information flow through isolation.
To counteract ITS you must build more representative teams and make sure those voices and opinions are actively included. Enthusiastically seek feedback and willingly receive it. Because you can't connect the dots if you can't see or hear them.
Rule 4: End the Echo Chamber
People have a natural tendency to surround themselves with people of similar backgrounds, beliefs, thoughts and values. While it can be comforting to be around those who are similar, it can lead to the number one trap -- groupthink. The problem with groupthink is that it overrides personal opinion in favor of the herd.
Decision-making should be a respectful debate with the end goal of getting to the best solution. The best decisions are data-informed. It's nice to have agreement and consensus without static but is it not effective or logical to operate this way. Build a bigger circle, elevate underrepresented voices and create space.