I woke up today expecting to feel excited about the day off I had planned for myself two months ago, yet somehow, that feeling was absent. I could have blamed the grey weather in Zurich, but I viscerally felt it was a much deeper reason.
I come from Lebanon, a country that used to be called Switzerland of the Middle East before 1975 and has since been plagued with two civil wars, a geo-political agenda fought on its 10,452 square meters that lead to a forced influx of refugees (over 2 million Syrians and Palestinians tallying up to almost 50% of the Lebanese population) and a disparaging economic situation. But worse than all, the dignity, the identity, and the dreams of my fellow compatriots have been stolen. Sadly, this is a perfect example of how mediocre leadership can destroy a country, an organization, our planet and our families.
More than ever, now is the time to design our leadership strategy. Starting at home, and extending to organizations and to our countries, how do we create a strong leadership strategy?
In their book Mastering Leadership, Robert Anderson and William Adams describe a successful leadership strategy as being tied to a three-step process of:
1- Alignment around a unified vision
2- Agreement around key strategies
3- How well the team executes collectively
Finding the long-term purpose or vision is what brings all stakeholders, who probably have different beliefs, to unify around a common goal. Let’s take a family outing as a simple example: if the family is made up of 2 parents and 3 children, focusing on how each one would like to spend a Sunday can end up in deadlock, or be fraught with power struggles, at the least. For a country comprising 111 different political parties with multiple ideologies and values, and 18 different religions, the absence of one common cause that provides a birds’ eye view in heated situations will naturally result in defensiveness, opposition, and eventually a stalemate, as we have seen in the past 45 years in Lebanon. If, in the family example above, the purpose for the day was “to spend the day joyfully in each other’s company”, the next step becomes a much easier problem to solve.
Questions to consider in building your long-term vision:
· What do you stand for, as a system?
· What is the cause or belief you choose to represent?
· If this organization/ country/ system stopped existing, what would be lost to the world?
Agreeing around key strategies is the sequential follow-up step after creating a unified vision. It would be nearly impossible to move forward without placing some basic rules of openness and respect, or what is termed as “diversity”. In team coaching terminology, we call it “deep democracy” where every voice is heard, respected and integrated. If we skip this step, the aggravated party could feel mistrust and have an incentive to create opposition, resulting in a deadlock. In the family outing example, applying this strategy means hearing from each family member with regards to how the joyful day would look like, and finding ways to integrate these differing ideas, with respect and acknowledgment, even if this means not implementing everyone’s suggestions immediately. It is no different in larger systems.
Questions to ponder when thinking about strategy:
· Are all stakeholders represented?
· How can my opponent be a hero in their own story?
· How can I be wrong?
Assuming that we have created a unified vision, and we have heard from every stakeholder and integrated their input, the next step is execution. This is a pandora’s box for leaders. But the common denominator is to know that how we show up as leaders is based on an “inside story” that translates into the actions we take in the world. The inside story is the set of beliefs we have depended on until this day, some are helpful and some not anymore. Growing our leadership potential starts by daring to question those beliefs and knowing which ones we need to shed in order to grow into our full leadership range.
Questions to think about when expanding your leadership potential:
· What is the legacy you are working towards?
· What is the most courageous action you can take right now?
· What would you have to let go of?
· How are you integrating the larger community in your strategy?
In the past few months, we have witnessed the cries of our planet screaming for help, for unity, and for action. It is a request from the world to wake up and intentionally design our next steps. Whether we think in terms of the COVID19 battle that seems to be winning over humanity, or the long-term struggle of “Black Lives Matter” which is a symbol of modern-day oppression, or the corruption that is destroying the lives of my fellow citizens, it is time to freeze. Each one of us is either a citizen, a colleague, a parent, a sibling, or a combination of these. The point remains: we are all leaders, and we are impacting the world.
How will you lead the rest of your life?