There are a lot of moving parts for leaders right now, given all the uncertainty and disruption and complexity of the world and financial markets right now, but one message is timeless and fixed: adapt or shrivel up and die.
We can’t ever keep leading in the same way as we have the year or sometimes even the week before. We have to constantly adapt to what’s going on around us and then choose how we lead.
‘Adapt or die’ is really about understanding and having the emotional and behavioural flexibility to identify and understand what is going on at any given moment. Then change it if it needs changing. Take action to survive & thrive.
It might be the culture in your business is off. Something is just not right. The vibe, maybe. You can feel it. You need to stop, think ‘I can’t keep forging on here doing the same things, potentially making the same mistakes’. It’s about being vulnerable enough to ask questions.
To ask, ‘what’s going on? Is everything okay? Are we on the right path?’ It’s assessing the situation honestly and working out what you need to adapt. It could be that you just need to lend an ear or be a comfort—or you could need to be the solutions-focused person right now. You might have to be the hard ass.
The answer will come when you ask one question: what is needed from me to be a leader at this time?
If you’re a switched-on leader, you’ll know if you ignore that intuitive voice that says something isn’t right then you’ll become irrelevant. You’ll be a dinosaur leader who forges their way through in the way they know how because it’s always worked until now. The yesterday’s news leader who can’t or won’t adapt.
The pandemic is an obvious example of how leaders had to adapt or die. Same thing, now we have environmental disasters that saw 68 per cent of Australians living in an areas covered by a natural disaster declaration in 2022. That’s nearly three quarters of us. That means a lot of team members and businesses affected.
When I started my career, you checked your personal baggage at the front door and rocked up to your desk as a professional. That’s what we were taught. You kept a smile plastered on your face and took sick leave if you were in hospital, pretty much. A generation later, things have changed a lot. People bring their whole self to work—their troubles, their joys, their weaknesses, their strengths—and leaders are managing that whole self. There’s no home person and work person anymore.
That forces leaders to take a more human approach and it challenges a lot of people to stop, listen, be present and understand what others need from them. That’s the upside.
I also think the wonderful greater awareness of mental health issues can make it extremely challenging for leaders to get things done. Business is staffed according to demand, so this new wave of absences leads to pressure and the risk of burnout for those who are taking responsibility and picking up the slack.
Wherever your business and team are at, the one thing you need to understand in 2023 is adapt or die. I want to see you out there thriving. Be flexible, be nimble, be flourishing.