Our lives and the landscape we operate in changed dramatically after the COVID-19 pandemic. Economically, we face many challenges, and it seems load-shedding is here to stay. It could be said that we’re facing a long-term crisis. The status quo was disrupted, and so, how we cope and lead through these changes and challenges needs alteration.
According to leadership expert Dr Johan Beukes, we need future-fit leaders who can handle rapid and unpredictable changes. A future-fit leader has the tools and insight to steer crises.
“Leadership is not for the fainthearted. It requires clarity, focus and guts. Ultimately, you are helping your team navigate through not only positive times but also challenges. Leaders must be skilled in handling paradoxes, as many complex challenges are not binary problems with a single solution. ”
Why you need to be future-fit
Beukes suggests that future-fit leaders need contextual intelligence and the ability to reframe thinking when faced with unforeseen circumstances. To be future-fit, you need to be grounded in the present. You also need the ability to understand the environment you’re working in and adapt accordingly.
“Sometimes, when the pressure is high, leadership explodes. Leaders start shooting from the hip to alleviate pressure. Leaders need to be “fit” for challenges, present and future. We need to understand that our environment influences the way we lead; that is why we need to reframe our response to crises.”
Delving into how to become future-fit, Beukes discussed the various challenges leaders face: Rapid, Unpredictable, Paradoxical, and Tangled or RUPT.
“As leaders, we’re so easily lured into believing complex challenges are problems with one right solution rather than seeing them as polarities that must be leveraged if our teams and organisations are to be effective in both the short and long term.
“For example, we must innovate for the long term, yet we have current businesses that must be managed both in the short and long term. We might be tempted to choose one or the other, but even for the short term, we must do both.”
Crucial steps to becoming future-fit
Beukes offers eight “movements” to build leadership muscle for RUPT challenges. Practising these “movements” could guide leaders towards a culture of high performance and is applicable to all leaders (from small to big organisations).
This is the critical muscle. Take a step back and reflect on your leadership journey and your decisions. Are you avoiding unintended consequences?
Place your challenge(s) within context. Why is it a challenge? How does it relate to your organisation’s vision, mission, values and culture?
Disconnect and Disharmony
Leaders can become victims of hopelessness in the face of disharmony. Unchecked disharmony can result in a dip in productivity in the workplace. When you reflect on your challenges, pinpoint the area that causes the most intense disharmony.
Connection and Harmony
Find the gap between your current experience and your desire to improve. Describe your version of harmony and how you will work towards it.
It is important to identify what we can change, what we can influence, what we need to accept, and the role of decision-making in this process. Ask yourself what one thing you can change, who the one person you can influence is, and what you need to accept.
Determine what your possible next step as a leader could be.
Practice gratitude. Even through challenging times, there is always something to be grateful for.
Contemplation and Celebration
Continue practising self-reflection and celebrate the wins. Build your contextual intelligence muscle to move forward through challenges. Make time for reflection, creativity, and problem-solving.
Working through these movements can help you navigate disruption and turbulence in challenging situations. Stay rooted in the present, understand the context in which you and your team operate, and keep training your future-fit muscle for successful leadership.