Lisa-Nicole Dunne is founder of Mantra Strategy. In this guest blog, she discusses the importance of agile and inclusive leadership demanded of organisations large and small as they look to the future.
“Work is a thing, not a place.” Colin Culliton, CEO of TPI Group, reminded me of this long before Covid-19, and it is particularly apt now. Our work eco-system has fundamentally changed, and so too must our leadership (and indeed management) to a more human and dynamic decision-making approach. As much of the world recognises the flaws embedded in capitalism, could the pandemic also be a wake-up call to improve purposeful leadership, inclusion, equality and impact.
Positivity and Commitment
LIFT Ireland was founded in 2018, with a goal of improving positive leadership capabilities in Ireland and with more than 1450 facilitators trained and more than 6,000 roundtable participants on its leadership programme, it is making good headway. Co-founder of LIFT and founder of Dress for Success Dublin Sonya Lennon launched the #WorkEqual report this week calling for several actions to tackle gender stereotypes from very young, including unconscious bias training for teachers.
More than this, Andrew Brownlee, CEO of Solas, speaking at the launch encouraged leaders to commit to the new flexible working arrangements made possible by Covid-19, and Dr Jennifer Carroll MacNeill TD encouraged that we “normalise” part-time working for both parents. If leaders can really commit to flexible adoption and hybrid-approaches made possible by Covid-19, it is an opportunity to begin to see real change for gender equality and more.
Champion or Advocate
As we reboot Ireland, leaders are being asked by customers and employees to stand for something. Ample research from Gallop, Lovell Co. and more shows that millennials and Gen Ys want to work for purposeful organisations who really care, so leaders who advocate for greater diversity, inclusion, sustainability, buying local, significant policy change, migrant integration or supporting local causes wholeheartedly. Those who lead as champions or advocates will flourish, personally and professionally.
Mark Culleton, of iDyslexic strongly believes that given the pace of change, we need more leaders with emotional intelligence. The tech for good social media platform for neurodiverse groups COO told Mantra “this is vital to create a social balance where empathy and support can reduce fear and offer real psychological support. Where leaders adopt a Jurgan Klopp coaching style, benefiting the local economy and communities as well as company employees, and the company”. Mark would love to see leaders “actually give back 1% to support education, training and local start-ups in turn reducing dependence on government grants and funding”. And emotionally intelligent leadership at all levels will also reduce workplace or culture toxicity.
Speaking to Mantra, Micheal Sheridan, CEO of Mercy Foundation Cork, and Board Director of Charities Institute Ireland, said that some of the best advice he received was that “you have two ears and one mouth, and to use them in that order”. Active listening provides leaders with an opportunity to understand complex challenges, employee priorities and concerns, and ideas for shaping the way forward. Mantra Strategy uses this and other models to develop innovative ideas for clients carving out new channels, models, and offerings, and practical plans for rebooting successfully.
Leaders who can remain kind, whether driving forward in the face of great pressure or delivering life-changing troubling news, will do well. Samantha Kelly, entrepreneur and founder of Women’s Inspire Network, has been championing several businesses throughout the pandemic. Despite having her own Conference (21 October), and business to drive, @tweetinggoddess has been promoting other businesses with hashtags such as #letspulltogether. This collaborative leadership, more about humanity and kindness than self-promotion and competition, more about collective good than ego, will be a critical leadership trait as we move forward. Other programmes such as Common Purpose Ireland programmes actively aim to help create leaders who cross-boundaries, and adopt collaborative approaches to solve complex interconnected problems, and this feels more relevant than ever.
Whilst there are many more key attributes, Mantra’s own view is that leaders who can openly and consistently communicate, providing connection to purpose and greater clarity, in the face of uncertainty, will be better positioned to engage employees and customers. As we face more potential restrictions, and our businesses face further periods of closure, economic challenge and ongoing change, openness and humility will be critical. A degree of candour in challenging times. Think Tony Houlihan. Openness also to flexibility, to new ways of doing things, to greater empowerment and new collaborative systems, to adapting and being more agile will help us restart, improve and grow.
Lisa-Nicole Dunne is Managing Director of Mantra Strategy, purpose led strategy consulting and leadership development firm. Chair of Charities Institute Ireland, previous CEO of CMRF Crumlin, Lisa-Nicole has held senior roles at Focus Ireland, BMW Group Ireland and UNICEF. www.mantrastrategy.ie.