Dear leader: Have the courage to act in uncertain times!
The uncertainty is palpable. As a leader, you must learn to navigate through it and decide what your organisation should focus on.
The organisation as we know it is changing. Digitalisation, fewer people of working age, and a constant need for innovation create a demand for skills that do not yet exist in many places. A socially conscious world requires ethical and political positions and, not least, a widespread sense of community. From a political point of view, uncertainty, regulatory requirements, and controls continue to increase. And from a post-coronavirus, purpose-driven 'we-can-do-what-we-want' workforce, there are now no limits to expectations of flexibility, development opportunities, and inclusion.
The dilemmas of a chaotic reality
Most managers in companies ranging from the production and service industries to the public sector are currently operating in a turbulent reality with a number of seemingly opposing demands and a daily life of constant dilemmas that need to be solved:
- On the one hand, the organisation must master inclusion and accommodate individual expectations and needs, whether that is 'remote working', flexible working hours, or personal growth and individual development, and on the other hand, the organisation must create cohesion, cooperation and belonging.
- On the one hand, the organisation must be purpose-driven in everything it does and individual managers must constantly focus on being able to create meaning on an overall level, and on the other hand, there is still a very concrete need for traditional, basic practical operational management with all that entails around ongoing everyday activities such as planning, organisation, follow-up, to-do lists and emails.
- On the one hand, we see a trend where our freedom is at the top of our priorities and where we expect to become our own boss to manage our work as we please, and on the other hand, we also want to be recognised, coached and guided.
- On the one hand, a constantly changing world brings more complexity to the problems we face, which requires complex solutions and structures in response, and on the other hand, the constant changes mean that companies must work with agile solutions and settings, which require simplicity.
What kind of organisation is yours in 2023?
In organisations that are characterised by expectations of great growth, managers have a special focus on how to attract the right competencies and how to set their internal framework so that the employees' individual strengths are best used and their wishes and expectations for work are met.
For organisations that are in volatile markets, extra resources are being prioritised to find the balance between speed and value-adding complexity.
The focus is particularly on simplicity and more fluid structures in the organisation and on cooperation and partnerships to meet the new generations' high expectations and the constantly changing socio-economic conditions. The opposite is true of more rigid organisations. They are stuck because they are in industries that are subject to fixed rules and framework agreements, because they have stakeholders who require special management responsibilities, or they have other dependencies around governance. With them, clear structures and responsibilities are therefore at the centre and managers often take a more traditional leadership role.
It is common knowledge that the organisations that are best equipped for the future are those that know – and are familiar with – the paradoxes they face, have clear strategic goals and know where their strengths and weaknesses are. To manage that balancing act, the company must, in the same way as a pirouetting ballerina, find a fixed point that can provide direction, stability and guidance. The focal point will often be the company's vision and purpose, broken down into concrete strategic goals and (design) principles. As a manager, in 2023 you will need to work on these three things:
- Learning– have the courage to stand firm on your vision and strengths, but also show vulnerability and doubt about how best to get there and to change direction along the way
- Structure – set up your organisation to manage change
- Culture – build the framework to thrive and contribute as employees and as a community.
Take an active position about exactly where you are coming from and how the changes will affect you. Where should you start, what are the implications of your choices, and where should you perhaps focus on being good at what you already do?
That is the future – for you and your organisation!