The COVID-19 pandemic caused the tide to go out on our leaders. In many countries, organisations and businesses it exposed the failings of the typical, ho-hum, garden-variety version of leadership that we commonly find out there. The dissatisfying leadership we tolerated beforehand was nothing new. It’s just that the crisis threw a collective spotlight on it and lifted the bar. The challenges and opportunities we face emerging from COVID will only intensify our focus on the gap between the leadership we have, and the leadership we need.
We have plenty of ordinary
A quick review of media commentaries and state-of-the nation reports into our attitudes towards the leadership in our lives reveals we are extremely dissatisfied. We are yearning for something different; a version of leadership we can trust and one that is able to galvanise the innovation and transformation that our organisations and institutions so desperately need.
Unfortunately, ordinary leadership is way more common than we would like. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, a psychology professor at University College London and Columbia University, suggests that up to half of our leaders (most of them men) are not sufficiently competent to do their jobs properly. This is backed by other studies that show ineffective leaders make up half of today’s organisational management pool.
we need more extraordinary
Surely we cannot properly thrive in this world, in these times without the quality of leadership we need? Nor can our organisations compete and win sustainably. Clearly we need less ordinary, and more extraordinary. But what is this more remarkable version of leadership? What should we be looking for? And when we find it, how do we create more of it?
I have spent much of my career pondering these questions.The acceleration of change in our world and the challenges that has brought has only heightened my desire and sense of urgency to find answers.
Three abilities of extraordinary leaders
My research has found that extraordinary leaders are recognisable by their mastery of three critical abilities:
Extraordinary leaders are able to get and hold people’s attention. They are engaging and influential.
Extraordinary leaders catalyse a release of energy and commitment from a diverse range of people. They challenge others to bring their best and support them to become their best.
Extraordinary leaders transform themselves in order to transform the world around them, and to match the increasing complexity of the circumstances in which they have to lead.
The test of extraordinary leadership
The common-sense logic of these three abilities being sound markers of extraordinary leadership is easily tested by asking these questions:
If people are unwilling to listen to you, or engage with you, how can you lead?
If you are unable to release the full potential of every person that you need to lead, with or without authority, how can you lead well?
If you are unable to continuously transform your way of leading to match the increasingly complex and challenging circumstances the world is presenting, how can you lead well sustainably?
The ordinary world of extraordinary
Part of the challenge of observing extraordinary leadership is that it often shows up without fanfare, quietly going about its business in our organisations and communities. While our attention is grabbed by the daily news feed of global and national leadership crises, the opportunity for extraordinary leadership is showing up much more frequently in commonplace and everyday situations in which both new and experienced leaders find their everyday leadership challenges.
They are also the moments in which you, as a leader, can show up as ordinary, or indeed something more extraordinary.
Your leadership potential is unknowable
The good news is that this means that everyday we get to make a choice – we remain ordinary in our leadership, or become something more remarkable.
The experiences I’ve had through 30 years of leading, coaching and teaching has proven that once you choose to do the work, there is no limit to just how extraordinary your leadership can become.
This is why we created Xtraordinary Leaders. A leadership development company that is committed to helping leaders reach their full potential and become more extraordinary. A collection of like minded individuals building a community that is committed to lifting the bar on leadership and leadership development. Because we need more Xtraordinary.