I haven’t blogged in awhile, for several reasons. I was on extended vacation, but I was also leaving space for wisdom to emerge, because – let’s be honest – the last few weeks have been pretty daunting, even for optimistic leaders like me.
I do believe in possibility thinking, but I don’t believe in pretending. The corporate realm is not immune to the fear, doubt, rage, and helplessness many Americans are currently feeling. Policies and procedures may guide our professional behavior inside company walls, but in the real world, where we live with our families and gather with our friends, the social climate is strained. And, as humanity would have it, that emotional burden follows us through every open door.
We, who spend the majority of our waking hours managing teams, running businesses, and serving consumers, need extraordinary leadership now. We need people who transcend competency profiles and see beyond numbers into the hearts and minds of others who want to feel safe, respected, trusted, valued, and included.
Human beings are designed to be in relationship. This tension – the violence and hatred and separatism – is robbing us, daily, of the one thing that has the power to heal us: true connectedness.
All things considered, these strange times demand more than a feel good leadership blog. Instead, I’d like to challenge courageous leaders to do not only what you’re paid to do, but also what you’re called to do. As leaders, we are called to shift paradigms, drive progress, develop talent, and generally make things better for our companies and those we lead.
If you’re still with me, please read on for 5 types of leaders we need now.
We need leaders who believe in positive change and who build believing teams. Who use every tool in their arsenal –starting with a winning mindset – to achieve business goals. Pessimism is running rampant. Don’t let it take root in you, and do everything you can to protect your team from it as well.
We must see beyond today’s challenges in order to facilitate transformation. What is your imagined future? What value will your work provide? How will you inspire others to not only see a desired state, but to create it? Where we are right now may feel sticky, but we’re not stuck. You know what they say: if you see it, you can be it (and other platitudes).
Familiarity breeds trust. Trust enables collaboration and risk-taking, which leads to better ideas. Do your team members know and trust each other? Are you making yourself vulnerable, so you, too, can be known and trusted? Invest in relationships. Find common ground. And stand on it…together.
We need leaders who will speak up for what’s right, and use their voices to defend, promote, and celebrate the good. Often our silence speaks louder than words. Don’t give those you lead room to make assumptions about what you believe or expect. Intentionality is everything right now. Set boundaries. Hold people accountable. Be clear about the kind of culture you want and demand adherence to your values. At work, you get to fight the good fight, alongside a team who will fight with you.
I know, it sounds a little strange. But I believe leaders who are willing to acknowledge others’ pain have the opportunity to unlock new levels of engagement. Are you courageous enough to meet people where they are? To listen with your heart, and allow your colleagues to be authentic at work? For instance, I guarantee most black people you work with are anxious about personal safety. I bet colleagues related to members of law enforcement are on constant alert. Today’s political landscape means many of us are looking across the aisle with skepticism, perceiving a vote for one candidate as a vote against our very being. This stuff is heavy. It’s hard. And it’s hurtful.
We try, but it’s almost impossible to leave our innermost thoughts and feelings at the door when we come to work. As leaders, we can humanize our workplaces, even when – especially when – the “air out there” gets thick.
This is not a time for status quo leadership. I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve had recently with women and men who are struggling to stay focused at work. Who are reevaluating their priorities, and seeking peace and hope in what feels like major social upheaval.
You can ignore it, and go about business as usual, or you can step up to the challenge of leading for today. We all have a personal choice to make. I’ve made mine.
Here’s to raising our leadership game.
Tara Jaye Frank is CEO of TJF Career Modeling, Corporate Culture Advisor for Hallmark Cards, Inc., and the author of Say Yes: A Woman’s Guide to Advancing Her Professional Purpose, written to help women from all cultural backgrounds chart a career course they can believe in and achieve. Tara consults and speaks on women’s leadership and diversity and inclusion. Follow her on Twitter @tarajfrank, Instagram @tarajayefrank, Facebook at Facebook/tarajayefrank, or visit her at tarajayefrank.com.