Leaders: Do You Know What Your Perception Gap Is?

For many years I have been discussing how the skills of leaders needs to change to meet the needs and demands of the 21st century workforce, and the recent pandemic has just highlighted this even more.

According to a study by Gartner last year titled, “Reshaping Leadership for the Future,” 50% of leaders surveyed didn’t believe they’re well equipped to lead their organization into the future. Similarly, only half the team members surveyed for the same study said that their leaders effectively create vision for the future of their team.

The pressures the COVID-19 crisis has wrought are unlikely to have improved the situation. What will improve it is focused and thoughtful action to ensure leaders are equipped to lead, and just as importantly, have the confidence of the teams they’re leading.

In the past, leadership was all about what skills you had and your ability to get results.  Simon Sinek refers to this type of leadership as being finite. In a finite leadership game there is a start and a finish, a winner and a loser. The mindset is one of competition rather than collaboration, and win at all costs. This approach won’t work in today’s environment.

Today, we need leaders who are more humanistic. Who have high levels of emotional intelligence and agility. Leaders who are more people centric and who recognize that business is a long term game that can only be “won” if we have the right team in place to serve all our stakeholders. These leaders have what Sinek refers to as an infinite mindset. They acknowledge that if business is to thrive, decisions need to be made that consider the longer term aspects, rather than short term profits.

Few doubt that the power of strong, effective leadership is an undeniable contributor to an organisation’s success, and team member confidence in the leaders is a crucial factor in determining whether or not leadership is effective. Combine this with the fact that many leaders believe they are playing an infinite game when, in fact, they are playing a finite game, and you have a serious leadership gap. I define the leadership gap as “The difference between how leaders perceive things and how the team and stakeholders believe things are moving forward.” These two divergent perspectives can have serious ramifications for the success of the business.

So what attributes do leaders need right now to be effective?

Founder of Engagement Multiplier, Stefan Wissenbach, has isolated seven key qualities leaders need to succeed in this challenging moment. These seven qualities are: 

  • Courage
  • Credibility
  • Confidence
  • Connectedness
  • Consistency
  • Caring
  • Commitment

How each of these characteristics are perceived by team members contributes to the effectiveness of a leader. 

Courage: A courageous leader embraces the good, the bad and the ugly
Resulting team member impact:
I am confident in my leader because he/she makes good, fair decisions and is open to receiving honest feedback from employees.

Credible: Credible leaders “walk their talk”
Resulting team member impact:
My leader motivates me by leading by example and displaying the same standards he/she expects from employees.

Confident: Confident leaders value outcomes over inputs
Resulting team member impact:
There is mutual trust between my leader and me.  I am trusted to get my job done without micromanagement, knowing I can call on my leader’s support when I need it.

Connected: Connected leaders have a “one purpose, one team” mindset
Resulting team member impact:
My leader demonstrates enthusiasm for our Purpose and is a strong communicator who keeps employees up to date with progress and news. 

Consistent: Consistent leaders are thoughtful and dependable  
Resulting team member impact:
I consistently have productive two-way review meetings with my leader and as a result, I understand how my role contributes to the business's goals.

Caring: Caring leaders believe when everyone grows, everyone wins
Resulting team member impact:
My leader treats me as a valued team member and actively seeks to help my personal development.

Committed: Committed leaders are in it for the long term, and focused on the future
Resulting team member impact:
My leader inspires confidence in me by demonstrating his/her commitment to the future success of the business.

If you’d like to learn how to assess the leadership perception gap in your business, why not take the simple leadership self-reflection assessment which you can find here.  And if you need further insight into interpreting your scores please reach out to me.

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