Why modern leadership makes people uncomfortable

image of 3 women and a man around a table

Today’s leaders are expected to be so much more than the technically proficient, hero leaders of the past. As our expectations of leaders change over time, a gap in leadership has developed, where what we expect and what we get from our leaders are very different. So how do we bridge the skill gap for modern leaders?

The leadership gap

Six Degrees Executive commissioned research to understand the state of leadership in corporate Australia, which highlighted a significant gap in leadership skills.

The Future of Leadership research showed us that our leaders need help embracing the skills required to become effective modern leaders. And it’s a big ask.

To help understand the leadership change that is affecting corporate Australia and explore ways to close the gap in leadership, Six Degrees Executive partnered with executive coach, facilitator and student of the human condition, Tom Harkin, CEO of Tomorrow Architects.

Tom helps companies effectively deliver their leadership offering and was the keynote speaker at a Six Degrees’ Closing the Leadership Gap event in Melbourne. Tom’s presentation provided an insightful perspective on the leadership gap and how modern leadership is changing organisations.

Changing leadership styles

As authenticity and emotional intelligence overtake technical expertise and industry experience as the most important criteria for leaders in Australia, many leaders are sailing into unchartered waters. A massive transformation is required to move organisations and people toward effective leadership and future success.

As we transform from the technical leadership style of the past, where leaders were often chosen for their smarts and ability to make the best decisions, today’s leaders are faced with a complex environment of fast-paced change.

In a world where solutions to today’s problems are largely undefined, leaders require new capabilities and skill sets to manage higher levels of uncertainty, complexity and change. As today’s leaders are forced to be more adaptive to develop solutions for the future, they are faced with emotionally heightened situations involving higher levels of discomfort. This is where authenticity is essential.

Why is authentic leadership important?

The move towards authenticity and emotional intelligence is daunting for many, as we try to overcome the hangover of the past, where leaders were conditioned to leave their emotions at the door and get on with the job of recreating the traditional solutions of the past.

We now expect our leaders to lead diverse teams, help us find meaning in our work, and develop innovative solutions. So, it is essential for leaders to create an environment where people can be honest with their opinions and thoughts and take the risks necessary to get to previously unknown results. 

What it means to be an authentic leader

To achieve innovative end-results, leaders must provide the freedom, permission and protection for their teams to develop new solutions. This means helping people show up to work with their competencies, as well as the vulnerability required to learn and grow. Authentic leadership is about capitalising on communication and interpersonal skills such as passion, motivation, transparency and integrity. 

Creating an environment where a diverse group of people can be truthful enough to show their cards and reveal their deficiencies in order to move towards new insights, creates tension and discomfort. The ability to be an authentic leader means having the capacity to hold this discomfort in a room in a comfortable way.

This type of leadership change is not something organisations can arrive at overnight. Helping leaders grow and develop as human beings is a long-term undertaking that requires leaders to build enough personal agency to permanently develop these skills beyond short-term courses, to help carry the culture of an organisation forward in any environment in the future.

Talk to us to find the right leaders for your organisation's future.