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Leading your team in uncertain times

How do you lead to create a self-empowered high achieving team?

Geraldine Gallacher We know that diverse teams are good for business. McKinsey found organisations in the top quartile for diversity are 15% more likely to achieve above average financial returns than their national industry median. Assembling a diverse team is one thing but for leaders, the greater challenge is how to get the best from people that think and behave differently.

And they need to be able to do so as an urgent priority. In today’s interconnected world, the context and purpose of leadership are rapidly changing, from leaders with the knowledge and experience to instruct reports to those that can unleash and harness the creative genius of their team.

No one expects leaders to have all the answers anymore

Organisations are grappling with hugely complex and often contradictory challenges such as delivering profit and growth and climate and sustainability objectives. Challenges to which there is no internally coherent answer. As leaders, we don’t like paradoxes because they create uncertainty. We want a clear plan ahead, but the next decade will reward those leaders who can work with ambiguity to find the most pragmatic solutions to “messy” problems.

This requires leaders to work in a more interconnected way and rethink their role and relationship with the teams they lead.

Invite experimentation rather than lead with answers

Emerging technology: AI, the Internet of Things, automation, is transforming accounting services and provides organisations with the potential to become more effective in ways that are not yet fully understand. This puts leaders in a position where they must invite experimentation from their team rather than lead with answers as Jeff Bezos says, “we don’t know what will happen here but let’s try something out”.

Build relationships so junior team members can input into decision making

Organisations are drowning in data and expect decisions to be data-driven. It’s quite likely your more junior team members will be closest to that data which changes the value of hierarchical structures. Leaders need to empower team members to weigh evidence, challenge assumptions and propose different conclusions to those their own experience may suggest. That won’t happen if your team doesn’t feel comfortable questioning the boss. Critical thinking values evidence over authority. A leader's role isn’t to provide answers but to be a catalyst for change.

What this means for leaders

To meet today’s business challenges the focus of leadership must shift from a technical to a human role. Leaders need to make sure everyone has a voice, bringing ideas and problems to the surface. Leadership is no longer about having the right answers but priming your team to do their best work - developing relationships, investing in employee wellbeing, and developing yourself and your team through reflective practice and self-awareness.

Geraldine Gallacher, CEO, ECC.