A new era in the pursuit of leadership development

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By Maud Lindley

May 9, 2017

“Psychological agility will be the most critical attribute to succeed in a world of unprecedented volatility, uncertainty and change.”

Maud Lindley, Founding Director of Serendis

Despite the media attention and often pessimistic prognosis on the leadership gender balance issue, I am very excited and hopeful. Over the last couple of years, we have observed a shift in the way this challenge is tackled by our corporate world and the approach is transforming the way we define success in leadership. Much broader than equity and fairness, the business case for diversity is finally being underpinned by our leadership’s capacity to demonstrate inclusion, adaptability and courage.

The diversity issue is only really the tip of the iceberg, the visible symptom of a leadership style in desperate need of transformation. For many years, the gender imbalance at the top levels of our organisations has been addressed by isolated initiatives, mainly driven by the sole objective to progress statistics. Much progress has been made and the corporate world now realises that the real issue is inclusion. A cultural change is required to transform leadership at its core. A new era of leadership development is born with two distinctive objectives.

1. Transform the way we recognise merit and talent

How do we lead with a mindful awareness of the unconscious drivers and stereotypes that short-circuit our cognitive and pragmatic approach to judgement? This is much broader than the gender or racial stereotypes, this also affects the subtle emotional filters that we constantly place between reality and our interpretation of reality. Psychological humility and mindfulness are the key attributes that will transform leadership in the 21st century.

2. Transform the way we make decisions and define direction

More than ever, the single most important attribute of leadership is the capacity to anticipate change. How do we equip our leaders to consistently identify the trends that will affect their business model and to have the courage to course correct accordingly? This will be underpinned by their capacity to actively seek a diversity of perspectives and their ability to lead robust debates that truly include and grow from opposing opinions. Mental agility is a critical differentiator to success for teams operating in highly volatile environments.

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This is quite a task for us consultants in charge of designing leadership development programs and  D&I strategies! However, this fuels our passion for the topic. We are encouraged by the rapid change in the way organisations structure these initiatives to embed one with the other.

We are currently facilitating programs based on a combination of small group learning, personal qualitative feedback and executive coaching. The last two components are crucial to effectively challenge individuals in a supportive manner to step outside their comfort zone and identify what psychological humility and mental agility mean for them. More than ever, we are also influencing how these principles play out in the dynamics of team facilitation and strategic planning. Our cross-industry mentoring programs continue to be a fantastic tool and forum to assist our participants to challenge their own personal outlook through the conversations they are having with a mentor/mentee who brings a wealth of different expertise, experience and perspectives.

The field of leadership consultancy has a significant responsibility to transform the way our corporate world is led and it is more exciting than it has ever been!