Debbie Nicol: Leadership practices in the quest for change

What actions can leaders take today to ensure change readiness for the future? Will you be ready for 2017 and beyond?

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Leadership takes people and businesses to new heights, keeping concepts, processes, systems and people fresh, focused and agile, able to serve new and evolving conditions and sometimes even create more superior conditions. Effective leaders may at times be required to work with the current results, yet will always keep an eye on future outcomes, ensuring any ‘business machine’ built today will be ready, willing and able to serve and adapt for a different tomorrow.

What actions can leaders take today to ensure change readiness for the future? Will you be ready for 2017 and beyond?

1. Leaders personify continuous improvement

True leadership knows and shares the direction it wishes to move towards. Will it be a future where all services are technologically delivered, perhaps a future that brings undervalued portions of society into the forefront, or even a new way to ensure customers can access and promote a product 24/7? Either way, the leadership will not only speak of that vision with clarity but also question every point of the process that may hold the dream back.

Great leaders represent change. This may appear in the format of:

• Continual questioning of every step of the process

• Continuous quest to access new resources and methodologies

• Continual consideration to ‘how will this take us closer to the vision’

With a leader’s anchor being the vision of the future, followers may even find that the leader themselves discover better, faster or more efficient ways and change their own decisions, because in the quest for continuous improvement, the best leaders are the best learners, loaded with curiosity.

Towards what are you channeling your curiosity in 2017?

2.Leaders move from probability to possibility

Opportunity is at the core of change. When opportunity is approached with a mindset of probability, thoughts are limited and focus on the likelihood of occurrence. Conversely, when opportunity is approached with a possibility mindset, the sky becomes the limit when creativity kicks in.

Let’s take an example where a competitor currently holds market share. If we ask the question what’s the probability of taking the lion’s share from the competitor, the answer could be debilitating. If a creative and curious leader asks the question ‘what is possible from our side so that we can take the lion’s share from the competitor’, a totally different set of dynamics come into play, such as imagination, engineering, focus, dreams, allowing a leader to help others see we are the ones who hold the power.

I recently overheard a Dubai Eye’s radio host sharing a passenger’s flight experience with American Airlines. The passenger was slightly injured throughout a flight yet received no apology nor recognition by the airline. Virgin Atlantic, a staunch competitor of American Airlines, became aware of this situation and the PR team creatively responded from a place of possibility. They sent the passenger a kit containing knee and elbow guards along with other safety gear, wishing the passenger safe future flights should they continue to fly with American Airlines. At the same time, they offered a free seat as an incentive for him to switch his custom to the safety of a Virgin flight.

What is possible for you in 2017?

3. Leaders help others to succeed during changing times

Great leaders have unique visions, and recognize and reward the paths that others choose. They fear not of assisting others, providing ideas and connections and general advice, as joint value propositions become evident. Many leaders consider shared success to be true success through the giver’s gain lens.

In alignment with this third practice is the recent announcement by the UAE President about ‘2017, the year of giving’. ‘Choosing 2017 to be the Year of Giving reflects the UAE’s humanitarian approach since its establishment,’ Sheikh Khalifa said reflecting the importance of shared success with the inception of three main themes for next year: strengthening social responsibility in the private sector, promoting a spirit of volunteering and strengthening the concept of serving the nation in new generations of Emiratis and expatriates.

How will you be contributing to the success of others throughout 2017?

When times get tough, they say the tough get going. Visions and dreams transcend tough times primarily due to the passion and perseverance of leaders, and their ability to influence others. The future requires leaders who willingly change the status quo, urgently find new directions and doggedly go after the solutions required.

In the quest for change next year, the winds will continue to blow steadfastly; that will never change. What can change is the direction of our sails. Are your sails ready for 2017?

Debbie Nicol, based in Dubai, is the managing director of business en motion and a consultant on leadership and organisational development, strategic change and corporate culture.

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