Well, this has certainly been a year to remember… so many challenges, so many changes… and so fast.
In many ways, our world is almost unrecognisable compared to this time last year. We have new norms around how we work, where we work and what work we do – or not do, as the case may be. Organisations and professions are dying, and others are being born, almost overnight. We are getting used to patterns and habits that we would never have imagined just a few months ago.
I heard on the news the other day that there is concern over our need to respond to the impact of COVID-19 has meant that many important environmental projects such as lowering carbon emissions have been “put on the back burner”. Such has been the overwhelming tidal wave we have been trying to surf and survive.
However, what if all of this is part of the same challenge and thereby the same opportunity?
To meet this challenge and realise the opportunity, we need to think about leadership in a different way. The function of leadership and how that translates into skills, attributes and behaviours is evolving. These elements need to evolve swiftly and effectively if we are to harness the opportunity that faces the world at this time. An opportunity to define and act upon a new way of leading for the new world that is unfolding.
There are already several approaches and methodologies emerging, one of which is the concept of Servant Leadership. The book, Servant Leadership in Action, edited by Ken Blanchard and Renee Broadwell, describes this as having an understanding that you can lead and serve at the same time and that servant leadership has two parts:
- A visionary/direction or strategic role – the leadership aspect of servant leadership
- An implementation, or operational role – the servant aspect of servant leadership
The book goes on to describe 10 characteristics of a Servant Leader:
- Commitment to the growth of people
- Building Community
What I notice about these characteristics is how several of them closely relate to the competencies of coaching and the coaching process. Alongside this, the International Coaching Federation’s (ICF) 2020 Global Coaching Survey reports a sharp rise in the use of coaching skills by managers and leaders coupled with organisations sharing an intention to continue, and increase, investment into this area of leadership and culture development.
The ICF’s vision statement is that coaching is an integral part of a thriving society and, for this to be realised, coaching must reach all corners of the world and of society. Leadership is not just of a person, a team, a department, a project or even an organisation. This crucial discipline includes leadership of self and leadership that contributes to the future of our planet and of our people – the human race. Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand says: “Everything I’ve ever thought about doing has been, in some sense, about helping people”. Walt Disney started his theme parks with a clear purpose: “We’re in the happiness business”, which is very different from being in the “theme park” business and clearly set a tone to help employees understand their primary role in serving others. Jacinda Ardern has also stated:
“One of the criticisms I’ve faced over the years is that I’m not aggressive enough or assertive enough, or maybe somehow because I’m empathetic, it means I’m weak. I totally rebel against that. I refuse to believe that you cannot be both compassionate and strong.”
Being both compassionate and strong embodies the two parts of servant leadership and by putting this concept to work, we put people first. Alison Rose, CEO of NatWest Group shares their purpose as: “We champion potential, in good times and in bad, to help people, families and businesses we serve to recover, rebuild and, ultimately, to thrive”. This purpose not only aligns with the vision of the ICF, it also aligns with the ICF definition of coaching, which is to “partner with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential”.
In our work we have been supporting organisations who want to leverage the potential of their people through coaching and coaching culture. During this year of COVID-19, we have also been supporting some of the front-line key-workers. People who have been giving so much of themselves to be in service of others and who in turn need and deserve support and development. Our recent COVID-19 Coaching Initiative Case Study outlines the work we have done and also the positive impact that it had for people during very challenging and difficult times. This project was offered on a pro bono basis, however making coaching an integral part of a thriving society and truly championing all people in the world to meet their potential and thrive cannot be done though volunteering alone. We believe that, as with food, there is enough funding around the world to enable everyone to experience the benefits of being coached. The resources are there, it’s about distribution and access.
As you consider leadership within your organisation heading into a new year, how might servant leadership play a part in your strategy? How might leadership for your organisation go beyond the boundaries of your business and extend to be able to reach other human potential through the provision of coaching services as part of your social corporate responsibilities and other social impact initiatives you may support and lead? In the Servant Leadership in Action book, Colleen Barrett, President Emeritus of Southwest Airlines, speaks about “treating your people as family”. As one family, a global family, we can truly help our world to evolve and every people focussed initiative, every coaching conversation is one step closer.
Tracy Sinclair Limited supports organisations to develop the potential of their people through coaching, coaching skills and coaching culture. Our Coaching with Conscience services specialise in offering coaching and coaching related services in support of positive social impact and social progress.