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The New Driven Leader

empathy

Driven. “Relentlessly compelled by the need to accomplish a goal; very hard-working and ambitious.”

Most of the leaders we work with are driven, and that drive brings fulfillment to our mission – that drive, if you will, drives us. Driven leaders are clear about outcomes; they are bold at facing development gaps (most of the time); they have a desire to grow in a way that makes a broad impact; and they are willing to do the work. I am dedicated to my “driven leaders,” and grateful each day for the opportunity to work with them.

But there’s a catch for those leaders. Though resolute about achieving goals, unexpected situations can create new challenges for them which, if not addressed quickly and meaningfully, could have damaging effects on themselves, their teams, and the organizations they serve. The driven leader must accept those challenges and learn from them. Covid-19 recently arrived and metaphorically said, “I’ve got a few new leadership lessons I’m going to teach you, Driven Leader, and these lessons will make you even better than before. If you embrace these lessons, they will transform your leadership to a level that’s more scalable than you could have ever imagined.” Here they are:

  1. Driven leaders love outcomes, but you are going to have to learn to pause a bit. This does not mean do less or achieve less; rather, it means slow down to think higher, broader, deeper. Be more purposeful and intentional with your actions and what you communicate so that your followers continue to follow.
  2. The biggest impact you can have right now is developing and modeling a strong sense of empathy. Your team and those you are leading need you to understand what they are experiencing, and to help address anything that’s getting in their way of performing. For example, just because you’ve been going to the office on a regular basis and have gotten used to the new routines – social distancing, wearing a mask, hand hygiene, disinfecting work spaces – it doesn’t mean others are in that same mental space. It may take more time for them to develop those same habits.
  3. You will also benefit from facing your own fears (you’ve got at least one, I know it!) and from considering the fears of those you are leading (see lesson #1). A recent poll suggested that 40 percent of the leaders surveyed were ready to go back into the office full time, while less than 10 percent of the workers were ready. That’s a gap. If you don’t face it head on, the best case scenario is that you risk poor engagement and productivity right at the start; the worst case, you potentially lose good talent to other organizations who are more empathetic to individual circumstances.
  4. Look for opportunities to reset, redefine, and/or recreate – anything and everything. The excellent strategic plan that was put in place earlier this year likely didn’t consider a pandemic and the impact on employees, business, clients, communities and everything else. Pre-pandemic goals and initiatives most likely need to be adjusted to reflect what’s changed; it doesn’t necessarily mean less, but different and, in some cases, many opportunities to be better. The saying “What got you here, won’t get you there” rings true now more than ever. Be careful about digging in your heels without considering the possibility that letting go might create something better: better goals, a better sense of what matters most, a better definition of “essential.”

These are the lessons for the new driven leader: expand thinking, strengthen empathy, and find new opportunities, and you will transform your leadership to a level that’s more scalable than you could have ever imagined. And if you want to hear more about driven leadership, you can listen to our newest podcast episode “The New Driven Leader.”

Keep leading.

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1 Comment

  1. Lauren Mattia on June 17, 2020 at 9:57 pm

    Thank you Cindy – I very much can relate to this. Empathy and being willing to change!

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