by Petra Kolber

Never has consistent, collaborative and communicative leadership been more needed. The landscape of even a few months ago has changed, and the guidebooks of last year are out. Stepping into their place is an extraordinary opportunity to create a new leadership model, one built upon a foundation of innovation, empathy, trust and collaboration.

Connection is the currency of your future. Unwavering leadership has never been more important, and yet the skills we need to excel today are vastly different from the ones needed to excel yesterday. To be an exceptional leader in 2020, it is important to think of the collective versus the individual, as well as to coach to the person—not the job description.

The ability to connect with and inspire employees was once considered an unnecessary soft skill. Now, connection and inspiration are the vital leadership skills needed to navigate the uncertain world of today. Connection and inspiration will be your currency of the future, and these ‘soft skills’ are going to yield hard, positive results for you and your team.

The new model of today lies at the intersection of effective leadership and personal flourishing. It requires an environment where we replace the mitigation of individual weaknesses with the development of a person’s potential. It also requires us to use the lens of appreciative inquiry (seeking out the best in people) rather than a lens which seeks out employees’ flaws and faults.

Transformational leadership only takes a small “mind-set reset” to yield exceptional results. Here are five ways you can get started today:

Step 1: Fire Yourself

Now is the perfect time to fire your old thoughts and behaviors around leadership, creating room for new ideas and possibilities to enter. Imagine this: what if your skepticism around change was simply unexpressed hope? What if the biggest obstacle to the success of your team was your mindset?

As leaders, we are primed to look for mistakes, focus on the areas we think need to be fixed and seek out the weakest link. The challenge is that this type of fixed mindset creates a leadership model built on doubts, fear and failure, instead of one built on strengths, possibility and growth.

Human beings are conditioned to magnify the negative and minimize the positive. It has been said that negativity sticks to us like Velcro and positivity slides off us like Teflon. By “firing” yourself and your old thoughts, I am inviting you to flip that switch and make positivity stick for good.

Step 2: Live Your Words

Long after your team has forgotten what you said, they will remember how you made them feel.

Research by Gallup, Inc. reveals that 89 percent of employers think that people leave because of money. While that is true for some people, 75 percent of employees actually say they leave because of their boss and a lack of appreciation.

How do you want your team to feel when they are getting ready to come to work? How do you want your team to feel when they are at work? And how do you want your team to feel when they are at home and thinking about work? If you had to choose two words that represented your leadership “feels,” what would they be?

Pull from the strengths that you use daily and reflect on the things that come naturally to you. How can you show up as the beacon of possibility that will light the way for your team?

Here are a few two-word combinations to get you going: Kind and calm, steady and creative, inclusive and generous, purposeful and present, patient and proactive, energetic and peaceful, consistent and clear. These are two-word combinations to strive for as a leader; think critically about how to make your team view your leadership in that way.

Step 3: Change Your Leadership Shape

The leadership model of the past was top-down. More recently, many leaders transitioned to a service-based model that was bottom-up—but both of these models are flawed because they are built on rank and positioning. When performing your mindset reset, think about how your business would change if it was no longer a hierarchical pyramid, but rather was a circular wheel of community and collaboration.

The goal of leadership is a circle built upon trust, and that trust is built on the team of “us”—just as the word “trust” itself cannot be spelled without “us.” Therefore, a circular leadership structure must be fueled by the ideas, energy, commitment and enthusiasm of you and your work community. When envisioning this new leadership model, think of the following tenets:

  • Authenticity: A culture where people can bring their “whole” self to work—not just their highlight reel.
  • Curiosity: A work atmosphere where people are not afraid to share bold and out-of-the-box ideas.
  • Meaning and Purpose: An environment where work is aligned with personal values, and where meaning and purpose are acknowledged.
  • Collaboration: A space for collaboration and cross-pollination of ideas.
  • Gratitude: An environment that is built on the sensibility of “we get to do this” instead of “we have to do this.”
  • Strength-Seekers: An environment where people feel encouraged to work within their strengths and are confident delegating to others when they are out of their ‘zone of genius.’
  • Flow: An atmosphere where genius is encouraged and engagement is employed.
  • Feed Forward: A space where mistakes are viewed as data and rejections are viewed as research. The failures of the past feed the information of the future.
  • Accomplishments: A workplace where accomplishments are celebrated and appreciation is shown in the moment, without reservation.

Step 4: Go with the Flow

We are in an attention economy, and Gallup statistics show that 70 percent of the workforce is disengaged. The cost of that disengagement to the United States alone is worth over US$500 billion. However, when we are “in flow” and fully engaged—and when you create an environment where your team can be “in flow”—your team will be 87 percent less likely to look elsewhere for a job and your revenue will increase 2.5 percent (Gallup).

When each team member is in their genius zone, you can see it. Their body language changes. Their eyes light up. They become fully engaged, and distraction is no longer a problem. They are “in flow.” The flow state was first named by Hungarian-American psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, and it is the Goldilocks sweet-spot of productivity. You’ve hopefully felt flow before: it’s that exciting state of being immersed in and focused by your work. Ultimately, flow feels energizing when you are in it. Flow is the place where the work you do is not so easy that you become bored, yet it is not so difficult you become anxious—it is “just right,” and you become unstoppable.

To notice what brings you into a flow state, think about the last time you felt time disappear. Now, ask yourself these four follow-up questions:

  • Where was I?
  • Who was I with?
  • What was I doing?
  • How did I feel?

This is when you were “in flow” in the past. Think of ways you can bring more of this into your present. To recognize flow state within your team be on the lookout for the “flow features”: rapid and more fluent speech, better posture, wide eyes, smiling, laughing and increased hand gestures.

Step 5: Ask the Big Question

“Why are you someone worth following?”

I was asked this question a while back when I was working with my own performance coach. It hit me hard and it stopped me in my tracks. Why am I someone people would want to listen to? Want to follow? Want to trust?

Leaders need to earn the trust and respect of their team. This is not something you should expect of them. Think of a leader you admire. What are the leadership qualities you most admire in them? What aspects of yourself do you see in them?

And now complete the following sentence: “The me I in them is…” Here is the thing: if you spot it, you’ve got it! Now is the time to be the transformational leader you were born to be.

PETRA KOLBER is a frequent speaker at the ISPA Conference & Expo. She is a certified performance coach who works with individuals and teams on how to get unstuck and become unstoppable. You can reach Petra at petra@petrakolber.com.