“IF YOU CAN’T STAND THE HEAT, GET OUT OF THE KITCHEN”
New times call for new organizations: innovative, daring, value-driven, fair and people-oriented. These organizations in turn require new leaders who dare tackle the challenge to build and advance these organizations. Leaders who dare to learn instead of feeling the need to prove themselves.
Accepting a leadership role is a big choice. You put yourself in a position knowing that you will face difficulties, questioning who you are and realizing that you aren’t perfect or omniscient. You make yourself vulnerable, knowing that you will be challenged.
Tough situations are the grit in the oyster for leaders. Reactions from your immediate surroundings don’t always feel fair, nice or compassionate but that’s what you have to deal with, it’s an essential part of the package if you choose to be a leader. “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen”.
Bas Westerweel in conversation with Thomas Benedict about ‘The essence of leadership’ (in Dutch)
It is important to see that what challenges you from the outside points to development opportunities on the inside. Connecting these external challenges to your own internal development is essential for new leaders.
By working on your own development, you build on the ability to deal with increasingly difficult challenges in the outside world; you become a better leader.
In addition, you give the pivotal example to others that leaders can always be in development, can always learn new things and therefore are never perfect. Anyone in the vicinity of such a leader may also let go of the need to prove their own perfection and become a ‘learning leader’ themselves.
By doing this we create organizations with the creativity, the fun, the courage and the learning capacity to make the difference in these times of change and to have a lasting positive impact on the world.
The aspects of new leadership
The model for developing new leadership consists of a core, two triangles and an organizational outer circle.
The heart (compassion) is the choice to dare to embark on a path of development.
The inner triangle offers nourishment for outer leadership
The inner triangle represents your personal development as a leader. Answering the question: What’s going on inside you and who are you? This triangle consists of three interwoven elements. A leader follows the three paths: ‘Presence’, ‘Dedication’ and ‘Reflection’.
The outer triangle provides input for the inner process
The outer triangle represents what is happening outside yourself, the expression of the three elements of the inner triangle in the outside world. Answering the question: What is visible to others about you as a leader? The three elements in this triangle are ‘Kind connection’, ‘Broad ambition’ and ‘Fair judgment’.
The outer circle provides the connection between the organizations of the future and new leadership.
Compassion begins with accepting the fact that you are not perfect. Giving yourself permission to learn from your experiences and developing your leadership. It is the choice for a state of being, the choice for daring to advance on the development path.
Allowing yourself not to be perfect gives others the space to learn and not having to be perfect themselves. If you do not give yourself this space, you implicitly radiate a demand for perfection.
Your degree of compassion affects how you behave. No need to justify or defend yourself. Being in the here and now and reflecting calmly and thoughtfully considering the challenges you’re facing on your developmental path.
Presence & kind connection
Presence depends on the extent to which you are able to live in the moment, how you manage being really present and involved with what is going on now. Can you be active and focused in the present and act accordingly?
When you are not distracted by worries or fears about the past or the future and you have the focus and peace of mind to be in the present moment and pay attention to the people around you, you become powerful, influential and you can really be in touch with your surroundings and make a difference.
Presence is expressed externally when someone connects to their surroundings in the here and now, wanting to deliver quality and committing to the organization, being in touch, and feeling compassion. Giving people in the organization the feeling that you are there for them.
(Video presence & kind connection (in Dutch) from ‘The essence of leadership’).
Dedication & broad ambition
Dedication: do you decide, each and every day, to be a leader? This choice means that you are committed to your role as a leader even though you know you will experience difficulties. Tough challenges ensure your growth and development.
You don’t know in advance what you will come across, but you connect yourself to something that is bigger than yourself. You are committed and you choose the need to take unpopular measures, to do the things that you would rather not do, and to not live up to the expectations of employees.
It’s about that decision, that choice with the capital “C”, that makes you able to meet the challenges.
Broad ambition: setting ambitious goals. You want to achieve things, make a difference and bring about changes, getting quantifiable and outstanding results out there in the world. Pushing, pulling and sometimes fighting for the realization of goals. You go for it, set the bar high, define and achieve goals.
(Video dedication & broad ambition (in Dutch) from ‘The essence of leadership’).
Reflection & fair judgment
Do you ever reflect on the part you play in a tough situation, and so develop the habit of seeing how you could change? Although a lot does happen in the outside world, you can identify your role in it, reflecting on your tone, the way you make your choices, the decisions you make. How could you turn this around?
Fair judgment is letting your conscience work, having active discernment, deciding what is good and what is not and expressing it. Not only reflecting internally but also expressing it and demonstrating it in your actions. Being honest and sincerely proud of what you do and not only putting your interests or the importance of your organization first but looking for a fair deal.
Finding solutions that are also beneficial for customers and suppliers for the longer term. Are we in line with our values and are we fulfilling our mission? Maintaining sustainable relationships.
(Video reflection & fair judgement (in Dutch) from ‘The essence of leadership’).
A high degree of inner development can be expected from a leader. Ambitious but not pushy, involved without being smarmy and honorable without being self-satisfied. You have to deal with high expectations, especially from the employees you guide and support. No one is able to constantly be a leader and meet all requirements, and it isn’t necessary either. It is enough that you are in development.
The external is about the “how”. Too much attention to the “how” is not the same as leadership. Too great a focus on the demands of the “how” creates a dogma, a rigid way of doing things. The point is to ask the question: “Where or what is not working?”
The visible externals are a reflection of your leadership. Success is great, if you fail, use the opportunity and get feedback. Being defensive, blaming someone else doesn’t win any leadership points. The external reflects the “how”, where or what should be different, the interior makes you think about the “why”; why am I receiving this feedback and what am I going to do about it?