Why leading is cool in the new world of work [if you want to impact the world]

Being a leader provides the stage for you to create impact in whatever domain you have chosen. Yet so many talented professionals hesitate to step up to their next level of leadership out of fear for; the unknown, the workload they might encounter or the potential collateral damage on their personal lives resulting from a more demanding position.

These fears are understandable and represent some hurdles to jump before committing to a path of leadership but for today, let’s remember why leading is cool in the new world of work – one where machines and people need to get along – and why you need to be adept at navigating change.

So why is leading cool?  Here are five reasons to consider before you make your next step up or out in leadership.

[1] You can make a difference by making decisions. 

In the new world of work, where people and machines need to work together, decision making is getting both easier and harder all at once. According to Eric Schmidt, the former CEO of Google, talking about the era we are living in, he says “every two days we create as much information as we did from the dawn of man through 2003”.  This is a huge realization to grasp.

As we progress our capabilities in creating data and using it intelligently, decisions are sometimes easier becausewe have better algorithms and a lot of data to assess the way our customers/constituents/audience reacts to things we sell, say or implement.  Decisions are sometimes harder because many others have the same data – your competitors and your future disruptors – meaning that have to be good at both data analysis and using instincts, experiences and creativity to become distinctive.

The good news is that if you can develop a track record in making good decisions, your team’s trust in you, and willingness to go above and beyond, will grow.  The momentum you can build with this track record will propel your career forward but more importantly you can make a bigger difference as a leader than you can as a follower.

[2] You can build something bigger than yourself for humanity.

I recently watched a documentary about Nobel prize-winning activist MalalaYousafzai.  From the age of 15, Malala was considered a significant leader on the global stage.  Her leadership credentials hinge on her series of decisions to speak up instead of remaining silent in the face of threats against something she believed deeply in – education.  After she was shot in the head on the school bus for sharing a journal of life at school in Pakistan, she and her family had to flee their home and live as refugees and Malala went on to finish her schooling in the UK and become a leader for others.  Clearly, Malala’s impact on the world is about building something bigger than herself – a global movement that pushes for freedom to attend school.

While stories of leaders like Malala are inspiring, your day job does not need to be in the line of humanitarian causes to matter. Every leader has the opportunity to build something bigger than themselves. By leading anything (even a project or a small team) that employs others you help an economy.  And by mastering something as a leader you build a skill base for the future which can be deployed for good – this is something the world needs much more of right now.

[3] You can get results quickly and share in the rewards.

In the new world of work, gen Y (born 1981-1996) and gen Z (born 1996-2015) workers dominate the workforce. The characteristics of these rising generations include tendency toward highly collaborative and communicative working environments.  It is an environment that rewards entrepreneurialism and initiative and you canget results quickly if you lead with prioritization and use automation and tech tools wisely to resource, communicate with and motivate your team.

While automation is seen by many as a threat to work as we know it (more than 5 million jobs are expected to be replaced by Robots by 2020) and tech tools are often criticized for creating distraction, the positive aspect of this era is that creative and highly motivated leaders have the potential for results that are faster and better than ever.  By using: (1) gamification, (2) mission-driven rewards for staff (e.g. day off to volunteer), (3) data to make good product and sales decisions and (4) intelligent management techniques, leaders can expect superior results and share in the rewards of their efforts more than ever before.

[4] You can be the coach, the mentor.

Leading others gives a channel for sharing wisdom and directing energy towards the people that contribute the most irrespective of whether you are in a formal leadership role (like a supervisor or manager) or act as a coach or mentor to others.  In this era of lightning fast change and constant distraction, being a kind and generous person that leads and with the unique “human touch” that differentiates us from all the robots can be very powerful. No titles or pay rises are needed to be this kind of leader.

While coaching is a formal role, mentoring can be a very compelling way to make your mark as a future leader. It is a great way to make immediate impact at work. Your mentees will remember you forever and your investment in their development as a leader will play out in unexpected ways far into the future.  This mysterious element of mentoring has huge appeal and you are only limited in your mentoring by your willingness to give.

A simple and friendly email sent right now to someone in your network, that could benefit from your knowledge, simply asking how they are doing or to share an article or thought with them could get the ball rolling on a new mentoring opportunity.  What’s holding you back?

[5] You can influence down, up, across, and out.

It can be daunting to work out the impact you want to have as a leader and the new world of work offers challenges the likes of which we have never seen. We are in a time where the pace of change is estimated by McKinsey to be 300 times the scale of what we experienced in the first industrial revolution (when steam power and factories were introduced).

This unique era requires CEOs, Chief Strategists, Presidents, Chief Security Officers and many other executive level positions to rely heavily on the influencing instead of simply ordering their people to act.  This is because ambiguity abounds and the appetite for the directive leadership techniques of the past has all-but-gone.

As you map out your leadership journey, even if you are at the starting line, mastering how to influence with grace is one of the top demarcation lines between managers and leaders.  Managers are allocating resources and providing direction.  Leaders are achieving results and inspiring action based on their ability to influence outcomes both directly and indirectly.  Similarly to the case with mentoring, no formal title is required to be good at influencing but it does take practice and the willingness to work on communicating persuasively, gathering followers for your ideas and ultimately getting results.

This is an incredibly empowering time to be a leader and only your own creativity and willingness to embrace the new world of work will slow you down.It is a time when good leaders will seek paths that lead to opportunities to influence results and to deliver on dreams for those around them.  By extension they will deliver on dreams for themselves.

As Walt Disney said, “if you can dream it you can do it. Always remember, this whole thing was started by a mouse”.  Walt Disney.

 

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