Listen, learn … and then lead

How can you build a sense of shared purpose among people of very different ages and skills? What makes you an authority figure? Listen, learn, and consider the possibility of failure. General Stanley McChrystal, former commander of U.S. and international forces in Afghanistan, draws on his military experience to share his vision of a “good” leader in the 2.0 world of work.

The end of the autocratic leader
A leader’s authority is not innate: it must be legitimate. It is not by making good decisions that you will necessarily be considered a good leader: that only means that you are not so bad. “A leader isn’t good because they’re right; they’re good because they’ re willing to learn and to trust.” Being good requires working on yourself and learning to accept other people’s perspectives.

Leadership is primarily about others
Don’t be satisfied with providing a roadmap or framework for others to respect. Leadership is above all a two-way interaction. According to Stanley McChrystal, “Leaders can let you fail and yet not let you be a failure.” Leaders must learn to tolerate mistakes and to encourage excellence. If they see one of their troops falter, they must get them back on their feet rather than letting them sink.

Use agile and resilient leadership
Leadership must change. Leaders still play an importance role, but they must learn to adapt to their environment. In an increasingly fragmented world, forces are spread thin. Good leaders adapt to these new times by building relationships of trust and authority via available technologies (chat, email, telephone, video conferences, and so on). If communication is long distance, leadership must be as well!

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How enlightened leaders reconcile the short and long term

Based on, among others, From Smart to Wise, acting and leading with wisdom by Prasad Kaipa and Navi Radjou (Jossey-Bass, March 2013), “The Wise Leader” by Ikujiro Nonaka and Hirotaka Takeuchi (Harvard Business Review, May 2011), and “Florida Ice & Farm : Sustainability Champion from an Emerging Economy” by John C. Ickis, Andrea Prado et Ximena García-Rada (oikos Casee Writing Competition 2013 Corporate Sustainability Track INCAE Business School, Costa Rica).
Business Digest nº 238, July 2013.