Mapping a way through choppy waters: a guide for today’s leaders

Volatility and fast-paced change are the new normal for the business world. That context requires a different leadership mindset based on a clear vision, making the most of every member of the team and ensuring work life balance for all workers, from senior managers down, says a new book.

Woman in boardroom


LEAD: 50 models for success in work and life by business and leadership experts John D H Greenway, Andy Blacknell and Andy Coombe is an easy-to-read guide that links up everything today’s business leaders need to navigate the uncertain waters ahead. One former FTSE 100 director describes it as “a virtual mentor for leaders and aspiring leaders alike”.

It starts by saying to leaders and would-be leaders: “Your journey is more like sailing uncharted  waters than driving along a straight road. It’s more akin to stormy seas than tree-lined avenues. You are going where no-one has gone before.”

It is the leader’s job to take the rest of the business with them on “a journey of common purpose and direction”, it states. It’s not about having a plan, but being good at planning – being ready for change at any point.

The book starts from having a clear aspirational vision and values which dictate how you will behave. From this you can derive goals that define your actions and conversations as you travel forwards, with a clear awareness of the current – but changing – context and associated risks for next steps. “If you have no clear vision you will simply react to circumstances,” says the book. “But with clear goals and by being practice you can read your current situation to see what will help you achieve success and why may hinder you.”

The ship analogy is carried through to the next section which focuses on navigation, on crucial issues such as understanding why you are doing what you are doing, gleaned, for instance, from listening to customers and their concerns. It states that it is not enough to have a vision – a map  as it were. You have to make sure that it is clear and that everyone gets it. It is therefore worth checking whether everyone in your team gives the same answer when you ask what the vision is for the business.

Other advice includes blocking out time for the non-urgent activities like one to ones with team members, paying attention to the quiet team members when attempting to encourage creativity and innovation and ensuring you are not distracted from your main activity through fire fighting by delegating not simply tasks, but authority. “The aim of delegation is to reduce your own activity to the things that only you, uniquely, can do,” says the book – a rule for life as well as work!

There are good suggestions on the importance of deep listening and clarifying what any problems are. This may seem time-consuming but in the long run it often saves time, say the authors.

Work life balance

The book emphasises transformative and creative thinking and ensuring that you don’t spend all your time in reaction mode. This requires constant awareness and the authors recommend reviewing the time you allocate to different types of activities over a 14-day period.

There’s a saying which is often quoted that what gets measured gets done and the book talks about the need for evidence that practices are working well.

It is very clear on the idea that leadership also requires looking after yourself and your own personal development. It states: “When the leader grows, everyone grows. When the leader gets better, everyone gets better,” it states. That means keeping abreast of new ideas and processes; building on your own strengths which implies, of course, knowing what these are and how others see them; and hiring the right people who are good in the areas you are weaker in. Good leaders are interested in their team members – not just in what they do for work, but in the whole person and in their development, says the book – and they themselves have a good work life balance.

The final section of the book makes clear how key work life balance is for the kind of resilience required of today’s leaders. The authors state: ”If leaders cannot lead themselves and their own lives…Beware!” That includes making sure you are clear about your priorities in life and thinking more broadly about your long-term legacy.

Resilience, including learning from mistakes, is crucial, say the authors. As in life, so in business…

*LEAD is published by Capstone, price £10.99.


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