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Emergence: Reclaiming Your Leadership and Team Strength During Disruptive Times


Tue Jun 29 2021

Emergence: Reclaiming Your Leadership and Team Strength During Disruptive Times

In a post-pandemic world, the ability to reimagine leadership will emerge as the most important contributor to realizing the promise of doing well by doing good.

Last week I was speaking to a leader about how organizations were planning to emerge from the pandemic. One comment stood out: “Leadership is now operating in white space, a place where agility, passion, and innovation intersect.” I couldn’t have agreed more. This is a rocky time for leaders. They’ve seen increases in job responsibilities and spans of control. Through this, they’ve also feverishly recast vision and values and recalibrated strategy.


But the pandemic handed more to us than that. It also threw down the gauntlet to put an end to system racism, and it compelled us to rethink how we protect our environment. Leaders are assessing where their biggest gaps exist socially, technically, functionally, and structurally. It will take different kinds of behavior and fresh ways of leading during these next phases of the pandemic to close these gaps.

The 2020s Will Be the Decade to Deliver

With our eyes now trained on recovery, a new word has entered the leadership lexicon: emergence. The decisions leaders make in the coming months will cast the die on their future. The question is not just what we’ve learned over the past year but how leaders harvest the fruits of their learning. Ensuring we capture key insights, innovations, and ways to broaden the path to equity are table stakes. As your organization moves forward, how you develop connective and collective intelligence amongst teams will emerge as central pillar of recovery.

And here lies the problem: In a recent Harvard Business Review study, researchers found leadership development has not kept up with the times. There is significant room for improvement: Fifty-five percent of organizations judged the ROI of their current leadership as fair to very poor, and less than 20 percent are confident they have the leaders they need to deliver on strategic priorities. Leaders are saying they want a fresh approach, which is what I aim to deliver.

The Missing Question

Relational leadership is a new way to think about how we lead during these disruptive times. For decades we’ve been asking the same “5W” questions about leading: who is leading, what are they leading, when and where are they leading, and why are they leading. But a question is missing: How? How we lead is the least researched and least understood domain of leadership today.

When we better understand how leadership happens, relationships improve, costly missteps are avoided, and goals more quickly achieved. Alignment and accountability are crystalized. Decisions become less reliant on what we take for granted and more evidence based. In a nutshell, relational leadership sets up the guardrails to ensure the future overall health of our organizations.


As you begin your journey to become a relational leader, ask yourself how you:

  • Unlock self-awareness and new behaviour in my leadership.

  • Relate with others to facilitate greater appreciation and understanding of perspective to align mutually created purpose.

  • Create new forms of teaching and learning to bring about change.

  • Better appreciate context to develop deeper insight.

  • Foster a culture founded on trust and accountability.

  • Inspire innovation and creativity for the future.

  • Safeguard environmental responsibility, social enterprise, and governance to ensure equity.

And here’s a bonus question: Ask yourself, “How am I preparing never to go back to that creature of habit, that leader of habit, I once was?”

Never Normal Again

Many leaders have grown fatigued when they hear the term new normal. But the thing is, this term implies that how we led before the pandemic was stable, that we were doing things the “right” way. If the pandemic has shown us anything, it’s that we have an opportunity to fundamentally question normal. It’s time for a new kind of leadership, one that sparks leaders to foster team health and equity. One that puts others’ perspectives above our own.

Want to learn more? Join me during the ATD 2021 International Conference & Exposition for the session Emergence Leadership in a Post-Pandemic World.

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