FROM REACTIVE TO CREATIVE LEADERSHIP
Leaders today are faced with many critical challenges as a result of the VUCU (Volatile, uncertain, complex, and unpredictable) environment which then requires the leaders to be more creative and at higher levels, than ever before. However, many organizations today both locally and even globally have most of their leaders leading reactively. Examples are in financial services when one financial institution kicks off a deposit mobilization campaign to mop up deposits for purpose of their strategic focus, you will find all other key financial institutions will similarly do the same their tactics would have changed due to the change in the tactic of their competitor, another example is in telecommunication where we have seen the two major institutions in Kenya, one being more reactive to the other institution campaigns; this is more the same for insurance companies and many other organizations across the world with such a reactive leadership block. Away from Corporates, we also see a similar issue in political leadership. When addressing issues politicians instead of being their own, most would wish to imitate or address their rivals rather than focusing on their agenda, and what they would wish to achieve in their political agenda.
“Many organizations today both locally and even globally have most of their leaders leading reactively.”Gilbert Angana
Don’t get me wrong in saying such behaviors from leaders portrays some reactive leadership instead of them being more creative. A good example of reactive campaigns for example would be when organizations and leaders react based on the current realities and environment by aligning their businesses and campaigns to respond to real-time events, news, and topics that will make their brand appear more relevant and relatable. It’s also likely that the content and campaign will receive more impressions than usual, given that numerous people will already be actively engaged with or aware of the topic at that particular time. However, reactive leadership is not based on the change in the VUCU environment, has built-in limits to scale, and tends to cancel itself out, and outmatched by the complexities that leaders face.
The solution to such organizations and leaders is on the aspect of training their leaders to shift their paradigm and be more ADAPTIVE than REACTIVE as the first step to more to being CREATIVE leaders. This then requires the leaders to start evolving to a higher order in their thinking and leading; this will enable them to start solving basic problems of complexity in their environment. Adaptive Leadership is the door to creative leadership, if we do not evolve then it’s highly likely that the leader will fall behind; this, therefore, means that organizations with leaders who are not adaptive, are not evolving and therefore the organization becomes less and less relevant to their customers, and eventually perish or no longer have a positive sustainable future performance but rather operate to survive only.
What does ADAPTIVE mean as a journey to CREATIVE? It means evolving from the INside OUT; coming up with new ways of decision making, acting, and making a better meaning out of situations; deconstructing our current leadership levels (John Maxwell talks about five leadership levels in that order as position, permission, production, people development, pinnacle) and reconstructing the next higher leadership level more fit for the particular complex and unprintable purpose.
Therefore is summary leaders shift involves moving from REACTIVE to ADAPTIVE to CREATIVE leadership; ADAPTIVE LEADER’S recognize the volatile and uncertain environment we all operate in and develop self-leadership mechanisms to enable them to evolve so as not to be left behind, CREATIVE LEADERS, on the other hand, more a notch higher, they take cognizance of the complex and unpredictable environment, then move to a stage of strategically acting to influence that environment and develop solutions for the uncertain and unpredictable environment. This is why you see the difference in organizations that aim to create solutions based on their environment and those who use the shortcut of copying their competitors because they are unaware of their environment themselves but believe they operate in the same mechanics as their competitors without really internalizing their uniqueness in purpose and acting.
So, how do we help such organizations and their leaders? What steps can the leaders start taking to move to CREATIVE leadership?
Let’s look at three stages to evolve into a creative leader, and each of the below stages is built-in in Step-Afrique transformadaptive leadership research conducted and overview of the details can be found at https://stepafrique.com/2020/12/29/the-re-invention-of-leadership/
- Sharpen Your IN
When we start developing our self-awareness, building on the aspect of managing our internal self in our thoughts and actions, then we will start having some level of self-confidence, which builds on our self-esteem to start making the small evolutions in our inner self as leaders. The leader without proper awareness of self, will not be aware of their environment and therefore means they will be managed by situations that are happening around them including situations that their competitors are driving and therefore end s up copying unashamed just because of their lack of self-awareness which has had a ripple effect in the lack of their environment awareness and therefore managed by their competitors and environment. When the leaders deploy themselves in this state of lack of self-awareness and inability to manage themselves and their surroundings, this is will make them lead and live reactively, since their behavior is being managed by outside circumstances and expectations and majorly dependent on outside validation of their bosses or otherwise for their job security and self-esteem.
Their organizations then end up acting and continuously living up to the expectations of their competitors, and depend on their competitors’ next strategy or campaign that will then enable them to make the next move. This then results in an organization that is not living to its full potential, with such self-limiting leaders, not tangible innovations in the organizations rather than what they have adopted from their competitors pasting their tactics and running and therefore are hit hard when the complexity of their environment shifts. The last season of 2020 and now has been a good example to showcase some of those organizations and their strength of creativity is measured by their sustainable performance now and in the future.
It’s critical to understand that leaders who have to Sharpen their IN –Self Leadership have some level of discernment of what is important to them, what they stand for, and have clarity of ideas and actions they would implement since they have a sense of purpose which is translated into their vision for the future for themselves and their organization. This then drives AUTHENTICITY and avoid scenarios of copy-pasting what others are doing and acting, but rather focus on your vision and the vision of your organization. This is the hallmark of CREATIVE leadership, where you as the leader no longer lead by or through fear; where you as the leader are not playing for purposes of losing, but focused on your purpose and vision.
What are you standing for as a Leader and as an Organization?
- Building Your OUT
The tension from INside OUT is heavy in leaders, from understanding self to focus on strategic understanding which mainly touches on understanding your leadership purpose. Every leader wants to be part o something much greater than them, they all envision to be Strategic Leaders in their own right, but the majority of them the struggle is on the HOW? I have written a workbook on LEADERSHIP PURPOSE that will be released in the next couple of weeks that is a step by step guide that helps leaders understand, develop and live their purpose that will be accompanied by a consecutive LEADERSHIP PURPOSE COACHING PROGRAM on the same that would be beneficial to help leaders develop this aspect if interest visit www.stepafrique.com for details and booking.
Many leaders genuinely and constantly try to pursue to understand their OUT through their IN and get the understanding but it’s never easy to get that spot where you feel this is it now; this is my leadership purpose. HIGHER CREATIVITY sprout at the beginning of is the understanding your LEADERSHIP PURPOSE
If as leaders, we continually play into our COMFORT ZONE all the time and avoid taking risks, we won’t be able to EXPERIENCE OUR GROWTH and thus may not be able to discover our PURPOSE.
Organizations focused on becoming market leaders must have leaders who are highly focused and motivated to pursue their purpose and their organization’s purpose and not be managed by their environment and their competitors. Most organizations today lack this focus and purpose and that is why many of them end up doing anything to avoid losing the confidence of key stakeholders including being driven by their competitors’ strategic goals and activities.
A read an article by an anonymous scholar who shared “Living on purpose is risky, but paradoxically, by taking the future into our own hands, individually and collectively, we create a different kind of safety—the kind that comes with creating the life and future we were born to create”.
An organization cannot pursue its purpose and also be managed by competitors’ activities at the same time!
- Developing your UP
This last aspect is critical and forms part of the loop of transformadaptive experience as a leader that helps develop the leader’s creativity – CONSCIOUS. A higher level of creativity as a leader is achieved by not only understanding your LEADERSHIP PURPOSE but, by also living it. Developing your consciousness helps you to have clarity in the discernment of your relationships, your full environment, and its effects, and how to optimally take advantage of it, but more so is the ability to take action and living the purpose – SELF-EFFICACY. This CONSCIOUSNESS is at the core of the leader and determines how the leaders deploy themselves into circumstances moment to moment. Based on our research on transformadaptive experience our research, we found that RELATIONAL, ENVIRONMENTAL AWARENESS, and SELF-EFFICACY are ingredients for highly-creative leaders.
From an organizational perspective, leaders at this stage are less self-centric (positional, permission, and production) and more about developing the capacity and capability of the organization (people development and pinnacle levels). The leaders then are more approachable and skillful in working with people, listens well, build high-performing teams, mentor, and develop capability in others, and then empower them. The leaders are operating at a High-creative level and can understand that creativity and growth is not about them but the team, and the organization; they can understand that their level of creativity is only one, but incorporating the team results in a multiplier effect in their leadership and the organization as large; they start to embody their vision calmly and with integrity across their teams.
Literature reviews on leadership state that “when we drive others for our self-centric purposes, we do so most often out of fear and playing not-to-lose. We lose sight of the larger purpose (perhaps we never had it in sight), and our self-centric purposes rise to the fore.” This then makes us as leaders focus less on contributing, and work hard to meet the expectations given to us by others, our competitors, and in their activities.
If we change that mindset, then as leaders we move from sharpening our IN which is our self-leadership; to building our OUT which is our STRATEGIC PURPOSE; and eventually developing our UP which is our CONSCIOUSNESS living our ability to make a difference and this is the pinnacle of CREATIVE LEADERSHIP.
So make that Paradigm Shift as an Individual Leader, as an organization to move from REACTIVE to CREATIVE leadership and see the transformation in SELF and ORGANIZATION.
We can help you develop such a robust program to enable your leadership team to undertake this transition to reach out through www.stepafrique.com
Gilbert Ang’ana is an experienced leadership consultant and the CEO of Accent Leadership Group which is a premier Leadership Consultancy firm focusing on developing your SELF-STRATEGIC-CONSCIOUS Leadership. He is also part of a Global Team of John Maxwell, and support leaders to achieve higher productivity, employee engagement, and improved performance at work, home, enabling them to reach their key objectives faster. A positive and enthusiastic person with over 15 years’ experience at a senior leadership level.