The new frontier of leadership

Great things happen when leaders deliver a transformational leadership style that engages their team and allows them to adjust to challenges

These unprecedented times need outstanding leaders who can first and foremost lead themselves so that they can flourish in a volatile environment, says Dr Lynda Folan

The present economic, social, and business context is redefining what successful leadership looks like and how leaders will need to support their teams to deliver sustainable outcomes. We live in truly exceptional times and face challenges that can’t be overcome with the leadership of the past.

‘Old school’ leadership styles are no longer effective – a new focus and a new way of leading are required. And research shows that in this volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) world, it is no longer possible to effectively lead a team without first managing yourself and ensuring your resilience is maintained.

Who are the most effective leaders?

Great things happen when leaders deliver a transformational leadership style that engages their team and allows them to adjust to challenges. We also know that transformational leaders deliver excellent team cultures and achieve sustainable outcomes for their organisations.

But there continues to be ongoing global concern over the lack of effective leadership. The incongruence in the results comes from a lack of understanding of the attributes essential to delivering a transformational leadership style. If we are going to fix the global deficit of effective leadership, we need to shift our focus to the dispositional attributes essential for effective leadership.

Instead of teaching people how to deliver a transformational style, we need to first and foremost support them to manage themselves by maintaining their resilience. Without resilience, it is impossible to deliver a transformational leadership style to the team.

Let’s change our focus

The most outstanding leaders of our time (the ones that will go down in the history books as positive role models and icons of leadership) build their resilience. They also support the people around them to enhance their resilience to bounce back from challenges and adversity.

No matter how many skills the leader is taught or how competent they think they are, resilience is a prerequisite for effectively leading a team. It is the fuel that enables effective leadership and the foundation for successful teams. So, there must be a focus on supporting leaders to get here. Organisations need to realign their strategies and build leader resilience to enhance leadership capacity.

The big shift

Now more than ever, effective leadership is critical. It is the distinguishing factor amongst highly successful companies. Show me a company delivering sustainable results, and you will be able to point to a leadership team that is the driving force of this success. Show me a company that is failing or getting in trouble, and this failure can be attributable to ineffective leadership.

In the VUCA world, it is essential that we focus on selecting and promoting people who want to lead their teams and actively develop their resilience while building the resilience of the people they lead. Resilient leadership is the driving force that carves out success for individuals, teams, and organisations. Resilience is the dispositional attribute differentiating exceptional leaders from mediocre or ineffective ones.

In simple terms, without first leading yourself, you will not be able to lead your team to success and deliver sustainable outcomes in the VUCA world. Leading yourself by maintaining your resilience is the new frontier of leadership.

Lynda is an organisational psychologist and a specialist in leadership and organisational development. She has authored the book Leader Resilience, The New Frontier of Leadership.