5 critical principles for every leader

From Susan Pearse, Mind Gardener
Today's business environment is characterised by fast paced change, uncertainty and unpredictability. Never before has a leader had the high volume and complexity of things to juggle, process and navigate. And that's why a leadership rule book no longer exists. The only thing a leader has to rely upon is themselves. And more importantly the wisdom that's generated from the combination of their heads and their hearts. So what do leaders have to guide them in these complex times? The following principles will help.

1. Leadership is more about "being" than it is about "doing"
Staff meetings, giving feedback and doing performance appraisals are all good leadership practice. But they won’t be the thing that makes you a great leader. You need to be the person your team would want to follow.
If you are wearing leadership as a badge of honour rather than living it as a role of service, or caring more about the outcomes than the people who are achieving them, it is unlikely that you will motivate people to do their best. A leader inspires people to bring their best to work. If you are not being that person, then all the "doing" in the world will not help.

2. Lead yourself before you lead others
Never before has self-awareness been such an important attribute of a leader. Many of the habits that have worked in the past will not work in today's environment. Letting go of the ones that don't serve you and adopting new personal mindsets are key to inspiring others. If you cannot identify mindsets for success and change your way of thinking, you will have little chance of doing it for other people.

3. Be vulnerable
Leaders in the past have felt the need to be perfectionists. To have all the answers and to put up a protection shield that made them look unshakeable and invincible. But these leaders didn't often inspire. And their followers could see straight through the facade.
Operating from a threat state, always looking over your shoulder in case you get caught out as a "fake" is exhausting. And it doesn't motivate anyone. Being comfortable being yourself and being transparent with your feelings, fears and challenges is one of the most powerful acts a leader can undertake.

4. Adopt a beginner's mind
If a friend has a business problem, often you can see an obvious solution. Not because you are smarter but because you are bringing fresh eyes to the situation. When you carry around the baggage of past experience, it filters your thinking. A leader who recognises that they are not an expert are more likely to listen, to learn from the people they leading, to see things as fresh and therefore come up with more creative solutions.

5. Change your paradigm
Many common leadership practices are adaptions of ones that arose from the industrial era when the command and control paradigm was the foundation. They had their place when work was largely routine but they are no longer relevant in a fast paced, changing business environment.
Instead of viewing work and people as things that are predictable and therefore controllable, it is more useful to view it through the lens of a living system. A garden, for example, has the characteristics of being unpredictable. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts, it is highly adaptable and all pieces work together without having a central point to direct, measure and manage. As a leader of a living system, your most important role is to step back, observe, align to purpose, create the environment, switch people on, weed out the issues and ensure overall connectivity.
Sometimes the best thing you can do as a leader is get out of the way and allow your people to thrive.

 Times have changed and as leaders we need to be the first ones to change with them. And the good news is when you start to let go and embrace a new way, you may just find that it is more satisfying and rewarding!