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Resilient Leaders in a VUCA World – Being Understood as a Leader (2 of 11)

V - Being Visionary, U - Being Understood, C - Being Courageous, A - Being Agile

When the future is unpredictable and followers are looking for “something” to be sure of, being understood as a leader is imperative.

As leaders we are aware of how important it is that our followers/organizations hear the intended meaning of what is being communicated and this meaning is shared and interpreted by the organization as a whole. Ambiguity of a leader’s intent does not lead to a healthy organization, or trust in the leader.

What is intended to be understood should at last communicate three elements: (1) What is significant, (2) what is purposeful, and (3) what success looks like. With a barrage of data and sometimes poor information being communicated on multiple media platforms (often using digital media), it is easy to misinterpret in the noise of volume what is really significant for the follower/organization to know. The growing permanence of hybrid workforce models increases the potential loss of hearing what is the “main thing.” Multigenerational workforces has amplified the particular importance of significance, specifically to the younger-aged working generation. This is significant as millennials will make up 75% of the workforce by 2025. Surveys go on to show us that 40% of these millennials have stated that deriving meaning from their work is an important factor in excelling on the job. To be understood, leaders will need to be thoughtful in communicating significance or meaning often and clearly in support of the efforts of the organization. A common leader comment heard is that being purposeful is synonymous with significance. Being purposeful is determining clearly what needs to be accomplished with resolve. In times of change with multiple calls for attention being focused on that is important to energy and effort is indeed critical. Significance is the passion and “call” to make a difference through what the organization achieves. Both are needed and when there is a shared understanding we see informal collaboration, proactive resource allocation, and synergy in the workforce. Lastly, to be understood requires the leader to be articulate and precise of how success is to be measured. In the new era of outcomes vs being busy, success criteria that is shared transparently with the entire organization enables everyone to understand without ambiguity what success looks like, and how their individual efforts will be measured against this success.

However, as important as what is being communicated by the leader, is how the organization perceives the voice of the leader. People really only strive to understand the leader if they respect the leader. The leader’s character and the followers perception of the leader is often described in terms of not only their competency, but who they really are. Trusted and respected leaders today are frequently described as “Authentic leaders.” There are several characteristics of authentic leaders but at minimum these four are essential:

  1. Authentic leaders are self-aware. They know who they are, lead from who they are, and are genuine in aligning this self-awareness with how they lead. To lead differently from who they really are would be considered as not being genuine and therefore they are less likely to be trusted.
  2. They are moral and ethical – enough said!
  3. Authentic Leaders are balanced in the way they lead people. They are fair, solicit multiple perspectives, are not impulsive, but logical, transparent, and seldom “power up” to their organizational title.
  4. They are transparent in their roles and relationships, implying that wherever feasible leaders are open and willing to share information proactively and willingly. Being understood requires the follower/organization to trust the leader’s intentions consistently and with confidence.

Communication is the vehicle of what and why to being clearly understood. Consistent communication is the fuel that drives the vehicle. In uncertain times the consistency of a verbal and written communications (notice not OR but AND), not only shares information, but anchors followers in their confidence in the leader. In the past 24 months successful leaders have utilized weekly memos, broadcasts, Team or ZOOM town hall meetings to communicate at least weekly (Monday Memo, CEO’s Weekly Update etc.). Followers want to know the context and what is significant for the future success of the organization, and then how are they significant in making this a reality in their workday.

In addition to communicating well, being understood with conviction, clarity, and consistency, content, and specifically how it impacts “me” in my role is essential. This is becoming more complex with the growing number of hybrid workforce models and by definition distributed followers. In the phygital workforce model, three messages have to be clear: What are the outcomes and how will they be measured, what resources are available to me, and what am I empowered to do. Each of these elements would be a blog in themselves, but what we are learning is that activity and measurement by presence is no longer feasible, and if we are to trust our followers without physical presence. we have to be clear on precise outcomes, proactive resource allocation and management, and providing direction and space for the followers to be successful. A definite shift to focus on leading and leadership, and a little less on managing time, tasks and oversight.

VUCA leaders certainly have to be visionary, but in disruptive times being clearly understood through trust, clarity, communication and clear expectations is more important for the leader who aspires to excellence than ever before.

This demands a courageous leader.

By Dr. John Reynolds (Board member of Tabor)

John Reynolds

John C. Reynolds, PhD
President, Los Angeles Pacific University

John C. Reynolds, PhD, provides leadership to Los Angeles Pacific University, an affordable, flexible, and online university designed specifically for the working adult. Reynolds earned his undergraduate and graduate degrees in computer science and information systems in South Africa, and later a PhD in Higher Education Leadership at Azusa Pacific University. He also serves as a professor, teaching in his research interests of leadership, board governance, organisational behavior/psychology, and strategic thinking.

In addition to his over 20 years of experience in higher education, Reynolds has worked as a strategy executive in the mining industry and as global Chief Information Officer (CIO) for World Vision International, a large private international relief organisation. Reynolds is the author of several books/chapters and is a regular contributor of posts and blogs on social media focusing particularly in the areas of leadership and strategy. Reynolds serves on several governance boards, including BDI Inc. (USA), LCC International University (Lithuania), API Educational Foundation (South Africa), Tabor Institute of Higher Education (Australia), African Enterprise (Canada), and LCC International Fund (USA).

Further professional information on John is available on LinkedIn





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