4Seeds has recently introduced our concept of Meaningful Leadership as a culmination of three leadership styles, namely: Transformational, Servant and Authentic Leadership. A Meaningful Leader looks to find meaning in and at work for the team as well as themselves.
If we analyse the word meaning on its own, we speak about a deeper sense of having purpose in life, leaving a legacy behind and being involved in a cause that fulfills your values and passion.
Being a Meaningful Leader is a conscious decision where the person understands the responsibility bestowed upon them to find new solutions to complex work and social problems. Connecting with their teams on a deep level and being able to demonstrate their own vulnerability.
You cannot be a Meaningful Leader without bringing your heart into it, and that is what many leaders are scared to show.
That being said, many leaders understand the meaningful leadership concept but struggle to practically implement it in their daily lives. We are often asked “what must I do to become a Meaningful Leader?” For some leaders it will be acquiring new leadership competencies and skills, and for others it’s about unlearning old habitual behaviours and replacing them with new ones. Whichever category you find yourself in, becoming a Meaningful Leader requires practice, patience and open-mindedness.
There isn’t one magic solution for two reasons: firstly, every team, situation and leader is uniquely different, and secondly, leadership is a journey of ongoing development and growth. You will go through periods of rapid growth, then periods of mastering a competency, and it may be that you reach a plateau before you have the energy to push to the next level.
Leadership is an ongoing life quest of learning, growing and living it out, however there are some practical steps that can help you begin your journey of Meaningful Leadership.
6 Practical Steps to Become a Meaningful Leader:
- Consciously use WE language. It may sound like a small thing, but if leaders continuously speak of “we” and not “us” and “them” it portrays a message of inclusion, belonging and safety.
- Say what you mean and mean what you say. Be super aware of what you are committing to and ensure that you uphold it. Give your team permission to hold you accountable on late or non-delivery. When you cannot deliver on something, there isn’t anything more damaging to your leadership integrity than to ignore it or to not provide valid reasons for it. You are expecting no excuses from your team and you need to remember that you are part of that team.
- Apply compassion-based economics, a method developed by Otto Scharmer. Nurturing relationships and not taking people, their trust or fellowship for granted is at the centre of this method. You have to find the ideal balance of putting your people before yourself, being compassionate towards them, and developing them while managing profitability and productivity. The best way to do this is to share and discuss the challenges you are facing with your team in an open and transparent way. Allowing them to contribute with their ideas and thoughts and co-create a solution will fuel their motivation and commitment. Present the challenges you are facing on delivering an effective and efficient service with a tight budget to them.
- Learn to become an observer first and then react. Meaningful leaders take time out to look at a situation from a 3D perspective; they pause the knee-jerk reaction of immediately responding or reacting. Decide whether you have all the necessary facts to make an informed decision, or if your own biases and assumptions are misleading you. The best thing to do is to sleep on it, and address it in the morning when you have had time to work through your thoughts, emotions and ideas. However, if someone needs your decision urgently, you should let them know that you will give it to them by a certain date.
- Self-awareness. This is realising how your behaviour, mood and emotions impact yourself as well as others. Meaningful Leaders understand that their moods change all the time and are not constant every day, as that is how human beings are. They make a conscious effort to manage their emotions in a respectful and mindful manner. They also accept that their energy is highly contagious and determines the team’s mood, performance and focus for the day. Self-awareness takes courage to look inward and manage yourself as best as you possibly can even when you don’t feel emotionally, physically or cognitively well on that particular day.
- Embrace failure as a guaranteed part of leading. No leader gets it right the first time around. You will probably make many mistakes. Be inspired by and learn from them. Embrace them when they happen and analyse what went wrong, what you could have done differently, and then go out and do it again. You don’t become a leader like a fighter pilot does, all trained and skilled up having gone through simulation rounds and prepared to react to role-played situations. You live on the training field and learn on the job.
Simply explained here is an infographic resource for you to come back to:
These practical steps will set a solid foundation for you to build your Leadership style Meaningfully. In future blogs we will share further practical “How To” tips to keep you on your journey towards Meaningful Leadership. Be patient, be curious, experiment, learn from mistakes and keep practicing. Leaders aren’t born overnight.