It is no surprise that when we think of inspiring leaders, we identify people we want to emulate, model ourselves after and have the opportunity to work with. As a colleague once observed, leadership can be summarized very succinctly: “Leaders inspire”. And it is seldom because of ‘what’ they do, but rather ‘why’ they do it and ‘how’ they do it.
The pandemic experience, while incredibly challenging for leaders and teams, also provided important learnings. We came to recognize the greater impact and influence of such attributes as resilience, agility, humility, curiosity, self-care, compassion and caring and attention to growing self-awareness as central to the leader role in guiding teams and ensuring that organization priorities are realized. These are foundational and increasingly expected of the most effective leaders.
In January 2020, when we had only vague and incomplete information on a new strain of virus, The Economist published a column entitled A Manager’s Manifesto for 2020: Eight Resolutions to Adopt in the New Year. It highlighted many wise practices and behaviours we knew about but which the authors thought we might pay special attention to, e.g. “give out some praise”, the “buck stops with you”, “listen to your staff” and similar important reminders.
This research on the effectiveness of teams was conducted in the early fall of 2020. It is largely supportive of, and consistent with, much of the thinking of others who were paying close attention to the experience of teams and leaders in a virtual environment. And the focus on teams also highlights the important relationship between teams and organization leadership and their interdependencies. The research also highlights a number of important insights and ‘learnings’ that will serve us well in the coming months; while it is difficult to predict with any certainty, it is possible that new habits will emerge as teams continue to focus on their overall effectiveness in support of organization priorities.
This research captures how organizations are re-thinking the role of teams, the work they do and how they approach and carry out that work. This report is based on a survey of team leaders, organization consultants and leadership coaches, as well as research in the field. The survey on the effectiveness of teams was conducted in the fall of 2020 with a goal to examine the following: What we have learned at the team level of the organization from the experience and challenges of moving through a pandemic? What has taken on greater clarity for leaders, managers and supervisors in terms of priority areas as teams strive for sustained effectiveness over the next period of uncertainty?
As a leadership coach, I regularly reflect on the approaches which support the essential relationship between the client and coach. Something that allows these approaches to work more effectively is an overarching mindset of humility, a mindset that applies to both the client as well as the coach. I do want to be clear that ‘humility’ for me does not imply weakness, nor is it the opposite of a tough-minded approach to supporting a client in his or her developmental goals. Rather, it implies a respectful environment that recognizes that the most appropriate coaching relationship is one in which client and coach work on strategies, plans and actions that will result in positive impact.
Coaching skills are enhanced and potentially of greater value to the client if informed by an actively curious mindset. In turn, a curious client can increase self-awareness, discover areas in which they can be even more effective and try new approaches and behaviours which will align intention more closely with desired outcomes. Conversations between two curious individuals, client and coach, can raise discussions to becoming part of an exciting and valuable ‘learning community’.
For some time I have been curious about ‘courage’ and its relationship to leadership. I am specifically interested in the part that courage plays in a leader’s decision to work with a coach, but also in the courage it takes for a coach to help their clients become as effective as possible in their leadership roles. Courage is not a new topic in serious conversations on leadership. It has been considered a significant attribute of the most effective leaders for many years.