Leading in(to) the Future
“Challenging times reveal who’s cut out to be a manager and who isn’t.” WU Executive Academy Dean Barbara Stöttinger does not sugarcoat the fact that anyone can lead when things are running smoothly. But to weather difficult times, both now and in the future, three qualities are vital: resilience, optimism, and a sense of humor. But how to achieve this? Read on for some handy leadership tips.
What’s the difference between a meeting with the prime minister and talking to the footman? – There is none. At least, that was how Elizabeth II viewed the matter. Regardless of who she was meeting with, she devoted her full attention to them.
What made the late Queen such an excellent leader? “Her persistence in standing by her decisions just as much as her ability to know when it was time to admit a mistake,” Stöttinger says. People want their leaders to act like human beings. As we all know, to err is human – and managers are human beings like everyone else. Admitting to their mistakes emphasizes their humanity.
Star Trek’s Captain Kirk is an excellent example: For one thing, he is quick to understand when a situation requires a swift decision. In such a case, he doesn’t hesitate to give clear commands and move forward. For another, he recognizes his limits in challenging situations and knows who to get on board to get the advice needed for a better solution.
Managers will do well if they are quick to realize when they need help in handling a situation. They know that they need people on their team who they can talk to on an equal footing. And they view success as a product of their own actions as much as of the people supporting them.
Today as much as tomorrow, resilience is among the most vital skills a manager needs. Part of their job is to assume responsibility also in times of crises and to deal with unpredictable incidents and new challenges in a sustainable way. That much experts can readily agree on. But how do you keep your cool in hairy situations? “When you know what you’re doing, you’ll exude resilience and calm. To this end, you’ll need to be able to trust your skills and have unshakeable pillars in your life you can always trust,” the Dean explains.
People who are very different with regard to their personality also tend to approach problems differently. Some people are very analytical and regard every problem as an intellectual challenge – others might be very empathetic and able to discern issues that are not expressed by a mere dip in the numbers. “It’s this multitude of perspectives that will enable a team to come up with an optimum solution,” Stöttinger says. The diversity among the Star Trek crew shows that conflict is sometimes unavoidable when different minds are scrambling to find a way out of a tight spot. “At the end of the day, however, they are always able to unite over their shared understanding of the mission. And it’s the leader’s job to make it clear to everyone what the mission is.” In order to do that, they must have a sound understanding of its purpose and ask themselves: What do I get up for every morning?
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