The Lens Shift on Leadership

By August 3, 2021Leadership

Seven Lenses to See How Everyday Work is Changing – A Series

Hi, I’m Jen from Thrive at Work with the first of a seven-part series where we are taking on this question of what lenses are most helpful as we begin to understand what we need to work now and the way that everyday work is changing as we move through what is (hopefully) a post-pandemic next normal at work. In this series, we are going to look at the lenses and the shifts we need to make when it comes to 1. leadership, 2. inclusion, 3. well-being, 4. work structure, 5. employee experience, 6. change, and 7. technology.

Leaders are in the Business of Caring

I’m here to talk about leadership today. While the way we think about leadership hasn’t changed much through the pandemic, the ways of thinking about what leaders need to be seeing have changed. We think about leadership as leaders creating the conditions for people to do their best work. We see leaders as inviters, conveners, connectors, teachers, and guides. They keep us focused on a shared purpose, a shared sense of what matters most, and they keep us moving toward a shared direction and sense of the future.

We’ve relied on leaders to weave the social fabric of teams, especially as we’ve worked remotely and continue to design a hybrid work environment. Leaders build confidence. Underneath it all, the most simple yet biggest takeaway from the last 18 months, is that leaders are ultimately in the business of caring about people.

Difficult Decisions in Uncertain Circumstances

As we’ve made our way through the last couple of years, leaders have been tested in some incredibly difficult ways. They’ve been on a stage and under a microscope, they’ve been watched closely by the people that they lead. They’ve had to make difficult decisions without enough information in a kind of uncertainty we haven’t known before.

I’d like to look at the old lens of leadership and some of the old ways we thought about leadership. Then, we’ll contrast with the way we believe we need to see leadership now as we move forward.

1 – Embrace “Change Can Start Anywhere” Model of Doing

If the Old Lens was that, change happened at the leadership level and was roled out, then the New Lens is, the idea that change can start anywhere. It’s an agile way of seeing change from a leadership perspective. Change is really about leaders helping to facilitate a process of doing, learning, and pivoting on repeat.

2 – Make Decision Making Inclusive and Collaborative

Next, we have how we see decision-making from a leadership perspective. The Old Lens was that decisions happened at the top and it was a leader’s job to roll out or communicate those decisions. It was the expectation that people would get on board with them. The New Lens we have to see through is that decision-making, wherever possible, has to be inclusive and collaborative. Younger generations especially, but everyone wants to know that their voice matters and counts in decision making. Employees want to know that we make decisions together for a future that is pretty uncertain. We’re not going to get certainty back, not that we ever had it to begin with.

3 – Make Information Transparent and Accessible

Next is the perspective of how information gets shared and communicated. If the Old Lens was that leaders were responsible for holding onto information and dishing it out to the right people at the right time, otherwise known as gatekeeping, the New Lens is that information has to be transparent and accessible. We need to share in collaborative ways and make information accessible virtually so that people have what they need. Employees need to have the right information they need to work together when they’re not in the office together.

4 – Put Everything in the Context of Values and Purpose

If the Old Lens was that people would do something because the CEO or the leader said to do it, the New Lens is that leaders have a responsibility to put everything in the context of values and purpose. Perhaps this is one of their biggest goals going forward. A shared sense of direction builds trust, accountability, and ownership within teams.

5 – Measure the Quality of Outcomes, Effort and Progress

If the Old Lens was that we were measuring hours spent working, the New Lens is that leaders need to look at the way we measure the quality of outcomes, effort, and progress being made. Hours working is no longer something that many of us are interested in having measured because it doesn’t tell us much.

6 – Make Empathetic and Caring Conversation Routine

If the Old Lens was that we leave our personal lives at the door when we come to work, coming through this pandemic, the New Lens is that we have to have workplaces and leaders that welcome our whole selves to work. That means having more empathetic conversations, caring conversations, check-ins regularly as part of the routine of work. As we’ve made our way through the pandemic, we’ve seen whole people’s lives. We can’t unsee it and we can’t discount it. People need to feel like when they show up at work, they can be who they truly are. Employees need to know it is valued and welcomed.

7 – Encourage curiousity; Ask and Invite More Questions

If the Old Lens was that leaders felt they needed to know all the answers, we now know that’s impossible. The New Lens is we need to be able to rely on leaders to ask and invite more questions. It’s ultimately the leaders that are curious, caring, and connecting that will take us forward in the right ways.

Thanks for staying with me as we’ve talked about the first in this series of shifting lenses for a new way of working. Please stay tuned for next time.

If you’d like to connect with us to talk more about these lenses or about the way that work is changing, please get in touch with us by booking a call, head to our website, follow our blogs, or join us on LinkedIn. I look forward to seeing you next time.

Jen Margolis

About Jen Margolis

My passion is helping people find and use their strengths to move toward their biggest vision. My career began as a community organizer with refugees and grew to designing and facilitating programs for international professionals including grassroots women leaders in Egypt. These experiences led me to management consulting focusing on strategic planning, leadership development, community and education based program development and executive coaching.