This month, Adam Cairns the CEO of Cardiff and Vale University Health Board and Honorary Visiting Professor, Cardiff University Medical School, Cardiff UK talks about the leadership challenges we face in the 21st century.
The Leadership Challenge
The leadership challenge is changing – and so leaders must allow their thoughts to evolve.
Here are ten provocations to nudge your thinking into some new places.
The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. – Martin Luther King, Jr.The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. - Martin Luther King, Jr.
Optimism Not Pessimism
Our mindset governs how we see the world. As the pace of change accelerates, ask yourself whether your instinctive, below the waterline response to this is to worry that you’re going to get left behind. Relentless change can cause the best of use to question whether we will be able to keep up. Rather than worry however, take hold of the momentum which change brings –none of us can predict the future – but it will be fun finding out.
Receive and Send
In the new reality of digital everything, we can engage anyone and everyone in a conversation on our terms. The exchange of information, views and ideas now happens instantaneously, whether we like it or not. By the time a service short-coming has impacted on a user of your services, the chances are the world is already hearing about it. Engage your audience, whether user, customer, patient or public and expect this to tell you more than you ever knew.
Questions Not Answers
Leaders should start asking some new questions. Instead of asking how to drive increased efficiency choose to ask what great would look like. Great isn’t usually more of the same, just faster. Great starts from a different place. It starts with an open not closed mindset – Henry Ford’s original customers said what they wanted was a faster horse. Ford had the genius to ask, how that was possible.
Insourcing Not Outsourcing
There are niches for every conceivable service or product. Today, you can buy a new logo design for $5 or appoint a virtual assistant for as little as $10 a job. Meanwhile your organisation can focus on what it and only it can do, while you outsource or automate anything that can be done faster, cheaper or is not critical to your core business. Competitive advantage can be built on the ability to narrow your focus. Consider the value that you alone can bring better than anyone else – and do that.
Upstream Not Downstream
In the high mountains, springs, rainwater and snow-melt mingle to create little streams and brooks. By the time these have merged into a gigantic river pouring into the ocean they have become an unstoppable force. Healthcare needs to turn its gaze towards these highlands: the early years, maternal health, smoking, sugar, diet and exercise. Find the upstream in your business and intervene there. If we continue to intervene as the river pours into the ocean we will eventually and inevitably be swept out to sea.
Innovative Not Administrative
A leader can be in power or in office. If leaders fail to open the doors to experimentation, risk taking and entrepreneurship they are in office only and act as servant administrators to the current system – which is struggling to cope. The new generation of leader will create a climate where innovation is a standard operating principle. They will be in power and will use their influence to release the innovative potential of their employees.
Off Not On
Managing our time and energy will be the new currency of leadership. What we choose to focus these two resources on will define what we get done. The edges of work and not work are becoming ever more blurred, and with it the hazard of burn-out and reduced productivity. Create a boundary between your work and home and make sure you have it well guarded.
Distributed Not Directed
Leadership is like the power generation industry – a central generator (purpose) provides energy to fuel the business mission. This energy is distributed to the point where it meets the business user or customer. Just as with power generation, leadership energy can be supplemented. There are many potential micro-generators in any business among the tens or hundreds of employees delivering on your behalf each day. 21st Century leaders don’t direct – they distribute their leadership effort, expecting to create fertile ground for the micro-generator to flourish.
Integrity Not Correctness
Being right is not enough. To produce long-term commitment to a product, cause or ideal, leaders must act with integrity. For the modern leader, integrity can be measured in the wisdom of crowds. It is no longer possible to isolate leadership from the social context within which the business takes place. Whether it be with customer, clients, users or employees, leaders must show that integrity is not just a word on a page. You’ll soon hear if you don’t!
Learning Not Leading
Finally, why not stop trying to lead from the front? In a rapidly changing world isn’t it more realistic to accept that leaders can’t know all that needs to be known? Allow yourself to learn by being curious and become practised at asking rich questions just because you are interested. Leading with humility* means you are likely to learn more and more often. The leader who learns more might also be someone who is more likely to succeed too.
What have I missed and what do you agree or disagree with?