Organisations need a new type of leadership for the ‘new normal’ – and they need executive coaches to help them make the courageous leap forward
By Vlatka Hlupic
As the world of work moves further into its second year operating in a global pandemic it’s becoming increasingly clear that we won’t be returning to ‘normal’ any time soon, if indeed ever.
Even before the advent of the pandemic, numerous organisations were still managed using traditional hierarchical command-and-control based approaches that were largely responsible for many problems, including low levels of engagement, performance, innovation and profit.
The inadequacy of this old approach to managing and leading organisations has been augmented by the pandemic, where there’s an accelerated need to lead from resilience and adaptability on the one hand, and, on the other, compassion and courage to make bold decisions to survive and thrive in this new complex and unpredictable world.
The new circumstances require a new type of leadership, so many leaders need to reinvent themselves, to think, do and be in a new way. Leaders today need to nurture creativity in times of uncertainty and instability, they need to create caring and collaborative cultures, provide autonomy for employees to make decisions based on their knowledge and to take initiatives, and they need to enable inclusive communication.
To achieve this, many leaders will benefit from help from an executive coach. Executive coaches must take steps to help their clients shift their mindset and organisational culture from apathetic to inspirational if they’re to successfully lead organisations in the new post-pandemic world. They need to train leaders who’ll lead from the head and the heart and create ripples to make this world a better place.
Make it work
Executive coaches can help develop such extraordinary and essential leaders. However, they need an implementation process to shift executive mindset and organisational culture to a new level of thinking, performance, and ultimately business success.
Based on many years of interdisciplinary research, I have developed the 5-level Emergent Leadership Model (Figure 1), described in my book, The Management Shift (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014).
The Emergent Leadership Model correlates to five stages of individual and organisational development. In terms of individuals, from lifeless (1) to limitless (5); in terms of organisations, apathetic (1) to unbounded (5). Every level is characterised by specific thinking patterns, language use, leadership style and organisational outcomes.
At Level 1, people are depressed, fearful, worried and lifeless. Not much gets done at this level. At Level 2, employees have a reluctant mindset, doing the minimum to get their pay cheque. They bring their body to work, but their heart and mind stay at home.
At Level 3, leaders lead by a command-and-control style, managers micro-manage, and the working environment is dominated by leaders with big egos who sometimes bully their staff. A complete management shift (the ‘Big Shift’) – to Level 4 – is required to enable organisations to survive and thrive.
At Level 4, the culture is collaborative and the mindset enthusiastic. There is a common purpose, trust, transparency, teamwork and collaboration. Such companies attract talent and the bottom line goes up steadily, because people are the focus rather than numbers.
Occasionally Level 5 can be reached with limitless mindset, working on some amazing innovations, often driven by love of humanity. However, it is impossible to maintain this level all the time without burning out, so the objective is to reach this level occasionally, spend some time there and then go back to Level 4.
The need to shift to Level 4 was already in motion pre-2020, but the pandemic has acted as an accelerant, making humane leadership even more critical. What matters now is autonomy, health, compassion and flexibility; showing genuine care for people and providing space for them to develop. Despite 60-70% of employees saying they wouldn’t want to go back into an office full-time post-pandemic, nothing can replace the human connection. Leaders need to demonstrate empathy, compassion and courage.
Leaders failing to show up emotionally and thus failing to nurture loyalty.
Executive coaches can play a crucial role in helping to create such extraordinary leaders. The process of the ‘Big Shift’ is gradual, and it requires conscious effort at first, until Level 4 thinking patterns, language and behaviour become second nature. Many benefits can then be experienced, both for the individual and for the people around them as any changes spread like a ripple effect, including improved mindset and actions, more passion for work, improved intrinsic motivation and reduced stress. At organisational level, transformation of leaders can lead to better engagement and motivation of employees, improved performance and customer service, increased innovation and profit. Coaches can unlock potential of team members, improve customer service and increase innovation in a post-pandemic world as this process of transformation can be greatly accelerated by skilful coaching and facilitated conversations.
To help coaches facilitate this transformation for leaders in a systematic and practical way, we have developed a coaching model and process based on the 5-Level Emergent Leadership Model.
Make it work
The coaching model/process of coaching (conducted by The Management Shift Accredited Coach) consists of the following key steps (see Figure 2):
- Determining individual and organisational context for coaching intervention
- Conducting individual (using The Management Shift Individual Assessment for Leaders and TMS 360 Assessment) and organisational assessment (using the 6 Box Leadership organisational diagnostics) to determine where leader and their organisation are in relation to the five levels of the Emergent Leadership Model
- Analysis of the results and preparation for coaching sessions
- Conducting initial coaching session to interpret the results of assessments and setting up coaching objectives with the client
- Conducting further four coaching sessions to help the client let go of old thinking patterns, language and behaviour (below Level 4) and start anchoring new thinking patterns, language and behaviour (at Levels 4 and 5)
- Repeating individual assessments (The Management Shift Individual Assessment for Leaders and TMS 360 Assessment)
- Conducting the final coaching session to interpret repeated assessment results and facilitate further anchoring to Level 4 mindset.
Initially, the client will be made aware why going through the ‘Big Shift’ is so important, especially now. The coach will help explore a new perspective on leadership with a client and explain the significance of assessment results.
This will be followed by exploration of the five levels of The Emergent Leadership Model, examination and application of the strategies needed to make the shift and facilitation of anchoring the mindset at Level 4/5. Examples of some of these strategies are provided below.
This coaching process (used with a number of clients over years) could, when used with a skilful coach, provide a life-changing experience and developmental evolution for the coaching clients, who’ll then positively impact people around them, their organisation and society at large.
In our experience, some of the impacts from using this approach/model include:
- Greater awareness and self-realisations
- The accelerated nature of the results and conversations due to the systematic approach
- The importance of recognising different perspectives through the leader and follower relationships
- Accessing creativity by using an envisioning process, including feelings, emotions and thoughts
- Anchoring learning through the use of keywords that trigger reminders of, for instance, lower level thinking, language or thought.
- Understanding to unlock leadership potential in others and impacting the team through sharing insights from the coaching.
About the author
- Vlatka Hlupic is professor of leadership and organisational transformation at Hult Ashridge Executive Education and CEO of The Management Shift Consulting Ltd
Examples of strategies for shifting from one level to another
- Encourage clients to begin gradually weaving Level 4 language – we, us, teams – into everyday conversations, leaving behind the self-serving rhetoric of ‘I’ and ‘me’
- Encourage clients to keep a diary of predominant thoughts, beliefs and actions that are used most often, and to reflect
- Encourage clients to reflect on specific work situations and decide how to approach them differently in the future from a Next Level mindset
- Share inspirational stories with the client about the ‘Big shift’
- Help the client to create conditions for teamwork, interactions and networking
Figure 1: The Emergent Leadership Model
Figure 2: The Management Shift Coaching Programme