To be trusted across barriers. Certainly a goal worth striving for in times of social, political and organisational change. Leadership of the highest order must surely be one that builds unity on difference.
Trust in a divided context
Nelson Mandela died a year ago today. He devoted his life, and forfeited his freedom, to bringing unity to South Africa. His legacy was a blueprint for leading in a way that inspired trust across divisions.
Reflecting on what Nelson Mandela represented gives us a glimpse of what is needed in a leadership that transcends difference. First there was the courage to stand firm for equality, even though it often meant standing alone. Then there was the compassion and understanding which enabled him to forgive those who had acted against his efforts.
Both political and systemic, the divisions can be traced back to 1948 when the Afrikaner National Party won the general election under the slogan “apartheid”.
Whether responsible for leading it or involved in implementing it, planned change can be overwhelming and isolating regardless of your experience and competence as a leader. So it's a major focus for TurningTides. Our Executive Coaching Framework comprises three elements - individual, relational and systemic. It's the systemic element that I want to focus on in this post.
Leaders can lose their bearings in organisational complexity
Work environments are complex these days. Organisational boundaries are less clearly defined as services integrate and centralise in pursuit of greater collaboration and efficiency. Leading change in this context can be pretty demanding. There's a lot to think about, not least of which is connecting with, and maintaining positive relationships with the people involved in the changes.
In reality 'planned change' is a bit of a misnomer. The complex adaptive nature of systems means that the environment within which organisations operate is constantly changing and the human response, both inside and outside the organisation, tends to be unpredictable.