Leaders know that change is constant. One of the most important qualities you can have as a leader, and instill within your organization, is the ability to adapt to changing circumstances while maintaining a clear vision of the future. The amount of change seen recently has been staggering, with multiple long-established industries and institutions disrupted. To help your organization face these changes with resilience, here are the leadership skills most useful in navigating change.
Change is difficult, especially when the conditions that necessitate the change feel outside of your control. A leader may feel the need to project the image that everything is going well, or everything is under control, but that is not what your employees need from you. Employees need a clear vision to work toward, and a sense of belonging. When a leader is willing to own mistakes, share their own challenges, and communicate proactively about challenges the company faces, this contributes to an environment where employees feel seen, heard, and cared for.
When leaders are open to sharing their challenges, their team can feel safe stepping out of their comfort zones, learning new skills, and trying creative solutions. Ari Betof, organizational leader and consultant, points out that when employees feel supported at work they are not only more likely to stay engaged and loyal to their employer, they are more likely to exercise creativity – exactly the sort of skill your organization needs to navigate changing circumstances.
Change indicates that you are facing a situation you have not encountered before. There is no reason to assume that strategies and tactics that have worked in the past will succeed today. One important skill to cultivate as a leader is curiosity. In approaching any new problem, identify the assumptions you have going in, and consider whether these should be tested. Even when you feel that your organization is at the top of its game, exercising curiosity can ensure that you and your team clearly see the trends as they approach, and can be ready for the next major change.
Organizations that make a practice of learning from each new challenge are better poised to adapt to change, and are more ready to pivot when necessary. You can help develop a culture of curiosity by asking, and encouraging, questions such as, “Why do we think this action will have this result?” and “What are the takeaways from this project?” If things did not go as expected, that is an opportunity to learn.
If you never had vision, it’s not likely you identify as a leader (and therefore you are not reading this article.) However, during challenging times it is easy to get bogged down in day-to-day operations and to lose focus, or at least forget to mention, your greater vision. In times of change and uncertainty, it is more important than ever to share a clear vision of who you are as an organization, and what you believe it is possible to achieve.
If you are open and honest about the present, have a strong vision for the future and inspire your employees’ curiosity about how to get there, you are well positioned to navigate the challenges ahead – this year and every year.