The Leadership Metamorphosis

Why we can’t seize new opportunities if we’re using the old rules

Posted Feb 28, 2019

Sara Canaday
Source: Sara Canaday

Leadership is experiencing a metamorphosis. Its tried-and-true competencies are being tested (and sometimes even crushed) in our chaotic, always-on, hyper-connected, and competitive world. In the context of this new business environment, the old rules simply don’t have the same impact.

This realization has radically changed the way I coach leaders and the way they respond to the inconceivable demands of this new business landscape.  And why I wrote my new book, “Leadership Unchained: Defy Conventional Wisdom for Breakthrough Performance.” 

In it, I highlight a bold segment of leaders who were willing to make completely unexpected business moves with extraordinary results.  All of these modern leaders had one thing in common:  They refuse to allow the conventional thinking and practices that were pivotal in their past success to become the chains that hold them down in the future. Their strategic choices were oddly counter-intuitive, undeniably successful, and downright fascinating.  Here are just some of those mold-breaking practices.

1.      Shaking off the age-old bias for action and perfecting the use of the strategic pause.

Successful leaders in the modern era seem to have adopted a new habit. Instead of making action the default for every challenge, these leaders are pairing that alternative with an opposite response. It’s not about replacing action, which we know is a necessary leadership ingredient. We still need to reach our goals, meet deadlines, and produce results. This is different.

They think of it as developing a companion habit that celebrates BEING rather than DOING. It involves a strategic pause. A mental time-out. Space for their brains to percolate. Whatever we call it, this new habit requires consistently taking some time away from the chaos of business to let ourselves think.

2.      Escaping from the prison of their own perspectives and passionately working to disrupt their own thinking. 

Modern leaders know that their own decision-making doesn’t come from a mentally neutral position, so they push themselves to uncover other angles. Not a polite, obligatory surveying of the crowd to reach consensus, but a mold-breaking, eyebrow-raising exploration to prove themselves WRONG.

These leaders aren’t just finding success through an openness to new ideas; they passionately seek them out. They value cognitive diversity and invite team members to challenge them with radical alternatives. They let go of the need to validate their own perspectives, and they focus all of their energy on finding the best solution to meet shared goals. No matter where those solutions might originate.

3.      Dropping their dependence on the usual routine and letting go of outdated tasks and deliverables.

Today’s forward-thinking leaders have realized that everything consuming their time must earn the right to be on their to-do lists. To establish that competition, they have adopted a new approach that defies their normal logic.

Most leaders have a competitive streak that pushes them to take on more rather than do less, but they are seeing the wisdom in that concept. Narrowing their focus to expand their perspectives. Minimizing their actions to maximize performance. Doing less to achieve more. Through the ingenuity of letting go, they are finding abundant success.

While these exciting new principles are remarkably effective, the most compelling thing about them is the way they are applied. It’s a selective process. Not a simple swap of out-with-the-old, in-with-the-new. There’s a firm acknowledgement that the old rules aren’t completely obsolete. The most successful leaders have a knack for knowing when to stick with the traditional approaches and when to break away. They’ve adopted a new brand of wisdom, and they know when to use it.

To learn more about these modern and mold-breaking practices, I invite you to read my new book, "Leadership Unchained".