According to research, 70 percent of people are concerned that false information is being used as a weapon to mislead the general public. Therefore, it is not surprising that, in this era of fake news, businesses are increasingly trusted, ahead of media and government, to lead people to a better, brighter future. In fact, 64 percent of people say that CEOs should be the only leaders driving change.
With this apparent decline in the trust we place in our institutions, people are looking for a different type of leadership. There is a move towards leadership competencies that help restore people’s confidence, towards more open and honest communication, where the espoused values of our leaders better align with their actions.
To build greater public confidence, the leaders who will fill the emerging leadership vacuum are those who will operate from a place of greater self-awareness. These leaders can use this self-awareness to develop a set of moral standards to inform their actions and develop relationships with more integrity, while bringing greater objectivity to their decision-making.
What’s also exciting is that these leadership competencies shine a light on the need for a more diverse group of people, with the right cognitive skills, to lead organisations.
So, if you are about to take on a business leadership role, there are four key questionsyou should ask yourself to guide your development and ensure future success.
What values and beliefs define you as a leader?
When you are clear about the values, emotions, motives and goals that define you as a leader, you will better understand how they inform your actions. In doing so, you become more confident in trusting your feelings and the decisions you make as a leader.
This process begins by exploring significant personal and professional events that have influenced you growing up. The process helps you understand how these experiences shape your values and beliefs, and how you bring these to your leadership of others. It also helps you understand how these positive and negative events influence the things you are passionate about, including how they might trigger emotional reactions in certain types of situations. It is only by taking on the work to increase our self-awareness that we bring about a greater understanding of ourselves to our leadership.
Interestingly, for introverts, self-awareness is ‘second nature’ because they have a natural inclination for reflection. It is through reflection that we more acutely understand our strengths and weaknesses, and use this knowledge to address our challenges through an ongoing commitment to personal development. So, although leadership selection processes often favour extroverts, there is growing recognition of the strengths of introverts for many leadership roles.
In support of your leadership development, seek out the opportunity to participate in personality profiling to stimulate reflection and insight into the value of individual differences in the workplace. Also, use development work like coaching or use writing as a way to reflect and learn from your own leadership experiences, and ask for feedback from direct reports and peers to expand your understanding of the impact you have on others. It is this foundation of self-awareness that supports you to develop some of the other competencies that form part of this contemporary style of leadership.
What moral standards guide your actions as a leader?
This cognitive process happens when we use internal moral standards to guide our actions, rather than being overly influenced by those around us, particularly in moments of stress or crisis. This ability to self-regulate our actions comes through self-awareness of our values and beliefs. However, it also comes through mindfulness and being aware of what’s happening in the present moment, to more consciously inform decisions based on our moral standards and, importantly, with a commitment to always take responsibility for our actions.
It is through the experience of consistency between a leader’s values and their actions that we come to trust a leader and it is a lifelong process to develop this capacity for higher levels of moral reasoning. From this perspective, it reinforces the benefit of age and experience in leadership positions.
This expanding demographic is important to highlight when we consider the age bias that often prejudices older applicants in recruitment processes. It is a higher level of moral reasoning that enables leaders to consider the greater good of the organisation and doing what is right. It is self-awareness and the desire to do what is right that also supports leaders in making more objective decisions.
What behaviours typically influence your decision-making?
A leader needs to be able to analyse information objectively and explore other people’s perspectives before they make a decision. In doing so, they can challenge some of the common biases in decision-making. For example, when we prioritise information that supports a decision that has, for the most part, already been made on an emotional level. In these situations, people only look for data that supports their conclusion. In seeking different perspectives, we need to speak to people with different positions and openly consider their viewpoint before taking action.
If we examine the gender differences in decision-making, female leaders are more inclined to make decisions by taking the interests of multiple stakeholders into account to arrive at a more balanced and moral judgment. They use collaboration and consensus-building more than men.
Women also show a strength relative to men in assimilating and integrating disparate pieces of information, which supports their more objective problem-solving and decision-making. As well as this strength in decision-making, women tend to develop work relationships in a more effective way.
What is your approach to developing workplace relationships?
Success in how we develop work relationships comes from being more open about your feelings and motives, as well as the ability to find more genuine ways to connect with people. It is a process of sharing both the good and the bad that helps build more meaningful relationships. It is about how you need to approach social interactions in a truthful way to forms bonds of unconditional trust. This trust stimulates a freer exchange of information, which in turn creates superior performance among team members.
Importantly, if you take a positive approach to the social exchanges with others, you can create an emotional contagion, which benefits team members. Research suggests that a positive dialogue stimulates higher levels of cognitive functioning, and is especially conducive to more creative thinking and problem-solving, while also benefitting overall organisational learning.
As we take a positive approach to the social exchanges among team members, there are sometimes challenges with the unconscious assumptions we make about people who are different from us. These biases often get in the way of good intentions and keep us from working effectively together. A leader needs to be aware of these biases and how they may foster feelings of exclusion among team members. The use of positive social exchanges can help people become more tolerant of other and encourage an openness to new ideas.
In summary, take a moment to challenge your assumptions about leadership.
As we grow up, we develop a set of assumptions about what leadership looks like, and it is these unconscious beliefs that can inform our approach. It is therefore valuable to try and consciously challenge any assumptions you may have about leadership and how these may or may not be supported in your workplace. In doing so, recognise the opportunity to develop a leadership approach that is more relevant for today’s turbulent times, as people search for a deeper connection and meaning in their work.
These four questions offer a way to challenge the ‘old command and control’ style of leadership because, in the era of fake news, there is a need to develop more authentic approach that builds trust in the workplace.
This foundation of trust has the power to increase the levels of engagement among team members and, ultimately, improve their job performance. Also, most importantly, this change in expectations reinforces the need for a different set of cognitive strengths in leadership positions. Moreover, as you begin to select leaders with these cognitive strengths, you begin to challenge the stereotypes of an effective leader.