Today's employers are expected to be perfect and do everything right—from seeking innovative solutions to complex problems to having the charismatic presence necessary to rally a team around a shared vision of the future. But if leaders were perfect, then why is there a need for followers?
You cannot be all things to all people, especially in a world that's constantly changing. Leadership is not about command and control anymore; it's about collaboration and cultivating the actions of those in your organization. It's time to take the rose-tinted glasses off and recognize your weaknesses as an opportunity for personal and organizational development.
So, what can you do? Embrace imperfection by identifying your leadership capabilities and building a team that complements one another's strengths and offsets another's weaknesses.
Rapidly changing economic, social, environmental, technological, and political forces make life difficult for employers as new decisions need to be made and executed. Still, no single person can stay on top of everything. If you try to be this perfect leader, you'll instead be an exhausted one while damaging the organization in the process. The imperfect leader knows when to let go and delegate. They know their capabilities and have good judgment about working with others to build on their strengths and offset their limitations.
Identify your leadership capabilities
Identify your strengths and weaknesses by reflecting on the four leadership capabilities - sensemaking, relating, visioning, and inventing. Rarely, if ever, will someone be equally skilled in each capability because they span the intellectual and interpersonal, the rationale and intuitive, and the conceptual and creative capacities required in today's business environment.
Sensemaking involves understanding and mapping the context in which a company and its people operate. A leader skilled in this area can quickly identify the complexities of a given situation and explain them to others.
Relating is the ability to build trusting relationships with others through inquiring (listening with intention and holding back judgment), acquiring (explaining how one reached their interpretations and conclusion without aggression or defensiveness), and connecting (establishing a network of allies who can help a leader accomplish goals).
Visioning is creating a compelling image of the future. It is a collaborative process that articulates what organizational members want to create together. Those strong in visioning will realize if other people aren't buying into the vision. But they are persistent. They engage in dialogue about the reality they desire, inspire and motivate others, and use stories and metaphors to paint a vivid picture of what the vision will accomplish.
Inventing involves developing new ways to bring that vision to life. The most compelling ideas can lose their momentum if there is no inventing; however, inventors are creative executioners. They conceive, design, and use creativity to help people figure out new ways of working together on the shared vision.
Finding a leader who encapsulates each capability equally is rare, but these capabilities are interdependent. Therefore, it is critical to find others who can offset your weaknesses and complement your strengths.
Build a complementary environment
After identifying your unique leadership capabilities, search for others who can fill in the gaps and build a complementary environment. For example, if you're a solid visionary but cannot turn your ideas into reality, find someone strong in inventing. Remember, if you get people that mirror yourself, you'll experience Groupthink and a "bubble," which is why it is crucial to foster a team with diverse capabilities, experience, values, and attitudes.
Embracing imperfection as a leader is not about strengthening your weaknesses; it's about cultivating a diverse, collaborative, and complimentary organization. Have the confidence and humility to recognize unique talents and perspectives throughout the organization and help others flourish as they build on these strengths.
It's time to celebrate the imperfect, that is, the human—leader.
Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners
Photo by Worachai Yosthamrong