Listen to this podcast to learn more as Tougher Minds Founder, Dr. Jon Finn, explains why, “leadership is dead“, in our rapidly changing and challenging world.
Dr. Jon explains it’s now essential to recognise that everyone is leader within any given team or organisation. This has massive implications for people and businesses.
He also outlines the award-winning Tougher Minds framework for creating truly high-performing teams.
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Hi, everyone, my name is Dr. Jon Finn, welcome to another Tougher Minds podcast. Today I want to talk about leadership. I’m going to start by saying that leadership is dead.
Yes, leadership is dead. What do I mean by that? I mean that literally the way that we thought about leadership for most of our industrial life does not work anymore. So we need to think about leadership very differently. I think a really good metaphor for how we’ve traditionally thought about leadership is like an oil tanker, like being the captain of an oil tanker, you know that you’ve got a course, that you’re taking the oil tanker on, which is your team or your company.
And that course isn’t going to change too much, you’re going to have to make some adaptations along the route, and some small changes and some small improvements but nothing, nothing dramatic. As the captain of the oil tanker, you got authority, just because you were the boss. Or in the past, as a leader, you got authority just because you just because you were the boss. Typically, as the leader, you had more knowledge and more experience than other people. It’s a lot about control and order, and you were able to inspire people through your charisma by getting in a room with them, and bringing energy. And that’s how you help people to be at their best.
Well, unfortunately, all of those things are now highly challenging to do, because of what we call the VUCA. World volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous world. So leadership now – the way that I would say it – isn’t like managing an oil tanker anymore. It’s like managing a jet ski race, where everyone’s got their own jet ski. And the teams are grouped together, and they’re all coming up against slightly different challenges and problems and technologies. And this, means that what we need to do is lead as leaders has changed.
There isn’t a steady course anymore. Technology is changing so quickly, that we can’t really predict what we’re going to have to deal with in 12 months or 24 months, we’ve seen that with the whole COVID thing. And we know that it’s the companies that are going to win, in the medium and long term, are the companies that are not others, not other financially strongest or the most intelligent. It’s the companies that are best at adapting. We know the authority is much harder to get now you don’t just get authority because you’re the boss anymore. We live in a world where cynicism and mistrust is greater than ever before. So if we want authority, we have to get good at building rapport, sharing vulnerabilities etc. Often as the leaders now because things are changing at such a pace in the world, we don’t have the best knowledge and the best expertise. No one’s got knowledge and expertise about setting up.
Or no one’s got exact knowledge and expertise about setting up career remote remote working systems, as we’ve needed them to work during this pandemic period. And whatever is going to follow that. We know that inspiration and charisma, the ability to get in a room with people and really bring energy is going to fade away because we’re not going to be seeing our people on a day to day basis anymore, are going to be working remotely. So we have to develop a different set of skills as leaders. So the way we thought about leaders, and very importantly, developing leaders so far in our industrial lives, is dead. It isn’t going to work anymore. And anyone who’s trying to sell you that same old leadership training, run a mile because it will not do what you needed to do to make your business successful.
So what do we need? Well, here’s what we need to understand……. if we’re going to be good at adapting to all the new changes in the world, and adapting in a way that allows our business to win – and allows our people to be happy – at the heart of that will be communication and collaboration.
Because better communication and collaboration make it easier for us to solve complex problems. And that all that’s all that the VUCA world is just a set of complex problems. But complex problems coming thick and fast than they ever have done before. So in order to make positive adaptations to the new landscape of the world, we need to help our people to be really good at coming. indicating and collaborating. So that means actually, instead of the leadership role being the captain of the oil tanker, the leader’s role now – as I would see it – is far more about facilitating and optimising communication and collaboration across that “group of jet skis” in order to improve problem solving.
And here’s what we know…..most of what’s going on, most of the time for any individual is mindless and automatic behaviour. So most of what we do and think we say at least 98% is a habit. So our people are running on habits. And if we’re individually running on habits, that means that our teams are running on habits. That means our organ organisation is running on habits. Some of those habits that people have got are really helpful for, for themselves being at their best, and for their team has been at their best and for the company being at their best. But some of those habits are really unhelpful. A lot of what we call the survival habits, like people they worry too much, and they beat themselves up too much and their doubt, or they get overconfident or they procrastinate.
And those unhelpful habits get in the way of individuals being at their best, they make it more difficult for individuals to communicate, and collaborate with colleagues, that makes problem solving more challenging. But these unhelpful habits, they’re just making it more difficult for us to individually and collectively be at our best. So I would title the new leaders as the Chief habit Mechanics. They have to get really good at not only understanding how to optimise their own habits, but understand how to set up environments – which we call cultures – to help to make it as easy as possible for their people in their teams to develop really helpful habits. And to help leaders do that we’ve created our five-stage Team Power model.
And the root of the Team Power model, the core conditions we need to set up is that we need to build safety. We need to share vulnerability. Because if I’m a leader, and I want everyone else to be building and refining their habits, I need to be showing that I’m doing that as well. So sharing vulnerability, and then we need to establish this habit improvement process with the purpose. What were we trying to achieve? Where are we trying to get these jet skis to also what’s the end goal here. And then within the five stage model, there are five important touch points that we need to be paying attention to as leaders, in order to give our teams the best chance of working really effectively.
And the metaphor we use for the five stage Team Power model is a mountain. So we’re climbing up a mountain together. And the first stage is what we call Me Power Conditioning. This is all about helping people to be able to turn up every day and bring their very best selves to work. So we know we live in a world now where the boundaries between life and work are ever more blurred. So if people are not sleeping well and exercising properly and eating properly, that’s going to negatively impact their ability to turn up and work well. We’ve got to empower our people to do more Me Power conditioning, that is to work on themselves to build more healthful habits individually. So that’s part of our roles, a Chief Habit Mechanic. The second part, the second stage of the team power model, is what we call the Community Base Camp. So this is where we before we start climbing the mountain, we collectively…this is empowering. Remember, you are a facilitator, as a Chief Habit Mechanic. This is where we work out well what are the big goals for the team? And what is the strategy? And what are the priorities? And how does that distil down into every or every team member’s roles and responsibilities. So that’s what we do in the Community Base Camp.
And then the third stage is what we call Group Climbing Support. And this is the daily grind of working. And this is all about how we behave. So what people see is doing and what we say to people. So it’s about modelling the right behaviours, and becoming what we call Action Communicators. So that we help and support each other and bring our best selves to doing that, day in and day out. There’s a set of habits we can develop that make it easier for us to do that.
The fourth stage is what we call the Camp Fire discussions. This is about peer-to-peer coaching. But not just the old coaching where we just get knowledge and skills, this coaching has to be about changing people’s habits. Hence, we say be a habit mechanic. So you are the Chief Habit Mechanic as the leader of the team, as a leader of the organisation. But you actually want to be packing your team full of habit mechanics…..full of people that are good at developing their own new healthful habits, but also helping others to develop new healthful habits.
And then the final stage in the Team Power model is the Group Climbing Review. This is where we periodically step back maybe every month, maybe every two months, every six weeks depending on the team in the organisation. And we reflect back on what we’d set out to achieve in the Community Base Camp, we say is that is the big goal still relevant? And is the strategy still working? And they’re still the priorities? And are they still people’s roles and responsibilities? And what, what’s going well, and what do we need to change. The opposite of that is that we’re all speaking negatively behind each other’s backs.
So if we, if we want to help everyone to be at their best individually, and collectively, and really supercharge communication and collaboration, we – the titled leaders in the organisation – are the Chief Habit Mechanics, but everybody’s a leader, everyone needs to be a habit mechanic. And we can use the five stage Team Power model, to give us a framework to allow us to really optimise communication and collaboration.
So leadership, as we’ve understood it, in the industrial ages is dead. It’s dead, because the VUCA world requires something that’s very, very different. So – keeping in mind the nautical metaphor – we’re not captaining the oil tanker anymore. We’re trying to facilitate really good communication and collaboration amongst lots of people on jet skis, dealing with lots of different complex situations. And we’re finding this is a really powerful metaphor, but also a really powerful way of using neuroscience, behavioural science and psychology – as we always do at Tougher Minds – in helping leaders and their teams to really start to bring their very best self to meeting the challenges of the VUCA world.
So I hope it is a helpful reflection point. And I hope it helps you to think in a really constructive way about your leadership, and your team performance. As always, guys, any questions about any of these things, do get in touch with us via the website. Also on the website, you can find lots of free resources, including our Tougher Minds Foundation course. Which if you want to become a habit mechanic, that is the very first starting point, because it teaches you about neuroscience, the behavioural sciences and psychology that sit behind habits and why habits are so dominant, and why the old way of doing things…..just teaching people knowledge and skills doesn’t work anymore. It has to be about helping people to build new habits. You’ll hear from me again soon in the next podcast episode, but until then, do stay safe.