Leadership Strategy in Complex Contexts

Power skills or human skills are key tools that serve as an effective guide in turbulent contexts

The business context has changed enormously over the past few years. The speed of business transformation has accelerated, as has the growth in the number and magnitude of the factors subject to it. This new environment presents us with three essential challenges not only for managerial work, but also for our own personal strategy.

The first is to exercise leadership from the position in which we find ourselves in order to contribute to the achievement of goals, the growth of our collaborators, and, ultimately, the training of other leaders. Secondly, we must learn to connect with people through active listening, understanding their points of view and need of fulfillment (for both our internal teams and the stakeholders related to our activity - customers, community, suppliers, shareholders, etc.). Since the environment has become complex, the third challenge is to simplify, in other words, to find behavior patterns (connect the dots) to achieve organizational and personal goals without any additional complications to the already complex decision-making process.

To address these challenges, leaders must develop the so-called power skills, which are a set of human interaction skills that, added to the skills of their specialty field, allow them to be competent in their range of action and achieve results by using an optimal combination of resources (including their own energy).

There are multiple power skills, ranging from the capacity for effective listening, decision-making in complex environments, resilience and managing uncertainty, to problem-solving, critical thinking, negotiation and conflict management, among others. The capacity for lifelong learning warrants particular emphasis, as a vital factor in performing effectively in the current context and in unknown future contexts.

The Japanese term ikigai, which means “a reason for being or living,” invites us to reflect on the development of these skills through four fundamental questions: What am I good at? What do I like doing? What does the world need? Why do I get paid? Finding the answer to these questions is not easy, but they serve to guide organizational and personal efforts towards relevant objectives. These key questions support strategic definition processes and strategic team leadership.

The dynamism of today's business environment also requires that we manage our energy, an invaluable asset, together with our focus and attention. Identifying the tasks (and decisions) that only we can do (and make) is essential; and, therefore, delegating other activities and decisions to a competent team that only they can and should do and make. For this, there must be confidence in ourselves personally and in the team. In the same way, we must not overlook our own health care and that of our teams (both physical and mental) since it is a key foundation for achieving personal and professional goals.

Another determining power skill is curiosity: being observers who wonder and ask their teams why? how? what if? As directors we must be open to listening to proposals, evaluating them to determine their feasibility. In this sense, the echo chamber bias must be avoided, that is to say, talking and listening only to ourselves (or to those who think like us) and not to what other people, with perhaps different but very rich ideas, have to say. The echo chamber curbs our own curiosity and that of work teams and produces a loss of trust.

Power skills are undoubtedly key tools that serve as an effective guide in turbulent contexts. Consequently, we must not forget digital technology, which has recently not only revolutionized business models around the world, but also created new businesses to provide a better service for target customers. It is our best ally in traveling the path of continuous learning and constant innovation, as well as in generating disruption in our markets.

As we stated at the beginning of this article, it is human connection that opens up the possibilities to generate a sustainable future that will create value for the diverse audiences to whom we, as organizations and people, are indebted. Even though an endless stream of information and logical thinking move the brain of our teams and push us towards understanding, motivation, human connection and emotions are the elements that move people’s muscle action toward the common goals we have set.

The authors are director at EGADE Business School Monterrey (Daniel Maranto) and business owner, entrepreneur and angel investor (Jerónimo García De Brahi).

Originally published in El Economista.

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