New Leadership: The Importance of Persistence

In a period of months in 2020 pretty much everything has changed for leaders of organisations. The new imperatives for success are wide-ranging, challenging, here now and include:

  1. Empowering and engaging a remote workforce less sure about their future
  2. Updating technology and supply chain for a permanent digital today and tomorrow
  3. Engaging suppliers and customers virtually
  4. Accelerating change and embedding more agile and leaner processes
  5. Managing a significantly lower cost base against a need for greater value outputs
  6. Protecting against new risks including increased cybersecurity risks
  7. Creating, communicating and inspiring stakeholders with a vision and strategy for success which is potentially quite different to a few months ago
  8. Ensuring that your vision and strategy is adaptable and can be flexed as needed
  9. Addressing greater demands for workforce wellbeing and mental health issues

The role of the leader is vitally important in:

  • Guiding their organisations through rapid transformation
  • Engaging and inspiring teams to achieve high-performance levels
  • Providing clarity to and creating confidence in, a myriad of stakeholder groups.

In this piece, we look to inspiration from the sporting world to apply to a business context.

Sam Warburton led both Wales and the British and Irish Lions, rugby teams, to record success levels in his playing career and in his autobiography ‘Open Side’ he breaks his leadership down to some key principles below:

(You don’t need to be a rugby fan these are about leading others to success)

Personality. Professionalism. Performance. Perspective. Positivity. Persistence.

Let’s take the last of these to apply to our context – Persistence. How can persistence help with the leadership now required for organisations to succeed? Warburton suggests that this is based on two key strands: firstly, recognising as a leader that you always have room for improvement and secondly pursuing this no matter how minuscule the improvement change may be. How many leaders do you know that really believe in and exhibit these traits?

Persistence though is the energy that really matters to push leaders forward and keep on going through tough times, to keep on working at improvements, not giving up (never, ever, that is out of the vocabulary) and working to achieve every change for the better. For those leading transformation, this is both critical and also often missing.

In 2020 with the Covid-19 pandemic impacting economies, organisations and leaders the value of persistence in leaders becomes more and more evident. Organisations need persistent leaders to question themselves, how they operate, where there can improve processes, why they have worked a certain way and how they can best adapt rapidly to stay ahead. The questions are far-reaching, the improvements sought may in themselves be small but together tangible and critical. With everything being thrown at leadership persistence is needed to keep the main focus on the organisational goals alongside the myriad of distractions however significant these are.

Warburton broke his own persistence as a leader down into 4 elements:

  1. Professional Attitude.
  2. Positive Attitude.
  3. My Own Performance.
  4. Developing Personal Relationships with the Players

Let’s take the last of these. Ok, we don’t have players as such, but we have teammates, colleagues, employees. What new challenges do leaders have in developing relationships and what approaches can help you get ahead?

When did you last sit down and talk with your leader or your team members?

Find ways to engage your high performers and develop personal relationships that don’t rely on technology. Show you care and that you are available.

Let’s talk next about aspirations – for many aspirations, career goals and uncertainty on both a professional and personal level are tied in together. As a leader developing great relationships you need to work on understanding new, and maybe now updated aspirations and supporting others to reach these. Maybe these need to be broken down and successes scored, like a single fixture in the Warburton world. As a leader the aspirations of your team and helping them get there need a refresh and taking time to re-set against this changed backdrop. Do you really understand them and can you afford to wait any longer with this critical knowledge gap?

The future of work requires leaders of the future who have adjusted to this new context. Persistence is a highly valuable trait. These are not times for giving up but more for addressing some distinct challenges. Ensure you do step away from technology to understand and support your team members’ aspirations and question continually where leaders can improve to reach new performance levels. We can help you with your leadership quest, contact Huw Jones: HuwJ@NineFeetTall.com

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