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In the current era, which we refer to as the ‘Imagination Age’, traditional approaches to leadership are no longer enough to guarantee success. With the rapid pace of technological advancement and the increasingly complex global landscape, leaders must be able to adapt to a constantly changing environment and think creatively to stay ahead of the curve.
To understand the challenges facing leaders in the Imagination Age, it is essential to examine the PESTEL landscape, which stands for Political, Economic, Sociocultural, Technological, Environmental and Legal factors. Each of these elements plays a crucial role in shaping the business and social landscape and presents unique challenges for leaders to navigate.
What makes a successful leader in the Imagination Age, and how can executive coaches help leaders (and themselves) adapt to new working conditions?
In our original White Paper, I discussed a model of leadership for organisations faced with the challenges of the VUCA world (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous).
This earlier White Paper was written back in 2016, years before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. However, we already recognised the importance of creating a brain-friendly culture to help leaders face a myriad of challenges. When we improve the performance of the brains working within an organisation, we can increase productivity while also nurturing the well-being of employees.
Our 2023 White Paper expands on these concepts to help coaches and leaders as we face unprecedented events in the world of leadership, including the war on talent, quiet quitting and the great resignation. The job market now is vastly different from the job market of the past, even the recent past.
Achieving a work/life balance is valued more than ever by people from all walks of life. With balance, we can fulfil our true potential. However, the body and brain must also be integrated to find this balance. To prove successful, leaders will need to understand that neuroscience is the key to showing us how the brain can work more effectively.
The bridge between neuroscience and coaching may initially seem unclear, but as you understand the i4 Neuroleader™ Model, the idea of ‘neurocoaching’ will emerge.
Moving from coaching to ‘neurocoaching’ is a logical step, but why are so many coaches stuck in the past?
Neurocoaching is fairly new in the field of coaching, but the ultimate goal is to help people achieve their personal and professional goals by using a deeper understanding of the brain and its processes. The brain is a complex organ, but it can be trained and developed. Knowing how we deal with stress or handle our emotions can impact our behaviour as leaders.
Neurocoaching draws from a range of neuroscience disciplines, including behavioural science and cognitive psychology. The principles and techniques used in ‘neurocoaching’ are based on scientific research, and the goal is to help individuals make positive, lasting changes in their lives.
The role of an executive coach has changed, just as the role of leaders has changed. What distinguishes one executive coach from another? According to our newest White Paper, coaches who have been most successful share four critical characteristics.
Undoubtedly, successful leaders in 2023 are very different from those in the past. Leadership has especially undergone significant changes over the past 200 years, from the Industrial Age to the Information Age to our current Imagination Age.
The Industrial Age, which began in the late 18th century, was marked by the rise of mass production and large, hierarchical organisations. During this time, leadership was often based on the principles of command and control, with leaders focused on maintaining tight control over operations and enforcing strict compliance with rules and procedures. Leaders were often seen as authoritarian figures who used their position of power to direct the work of others.
Leaders during this era were often focused on maintaining productivity and efficiency in factories and other industrial settings. They were expected to make decisions quickly and decisively without necessarily consulting with others. Leaders were also expected to be experts in their field, with deep knowledge of the processes and technologies used in their organisations.
Coaching was likely few and far between during this time, at least compared to our modern definition. Financial investment bankers were teaching leaders how to create value for shareholders. The coaching methodology was skill transference to executives who could master the mathematical principles of capital in the forms of goods and cash.
The widespread use of computers, digital communications, and the Internet characterises the Information Age. Regarding leadership, the Information Age emphasised collaboration, communication and knowledge-sharing. Leaders in this era were typically charismatic strategists who built knowledge and pathways rapidly and efficiently across their organisations and inspired a profitable vision for their customers, shareholders and Wall Street.
Leaders during the Information Age changed the heavy-handed approaches more commonly seen during the Industrial Age. Leaders encouraged team members to share ideas and information freely while working closely with their teams to drive growth and competitiveness during a rapidly changing global economy.
Coaching was finding its foothold during this time period. During the late 1990s, particularly, executive coaching institutes and academies began to appear rapidly. People who were, especially good motivators rose to the fore. They used their personalities to develop and create a legitimate profession, complementing the more technical industrial psychologist who focused on job design, salary structures and organisational structure design.
The Imagination Age is marked by a growing emphasis on creativity, innovation and the ability to think outside the box. In this age, leadership is expected to be more inclusive, adaptive and agile. Leaders are expected to be able to navigate complexity, promote a sense of purpose, and inspire their teams to be more innovative and experimental.
The focus is on developing the imagination and creativity of individuals and teams rather than on enforcing strict rules or procedures. Now, leadership is about inspiring and enabling people to come up with new and innovative solutions to solve the world's challenges.
What do we need from our coaches during this age? What skills do they require? Where do they come from? Are they different from the ones we trained during the Information Age? To address these questions, we must first examine how coaching changed to meet leaders' needs in the Imagination Age.
Whoever desires constant success must change his conduct with the times.
This annual meeting in Davos was titled ‘Cooperation in a Fragmented World’. As the world faces crisis after crisis and change after change, how can coaches keep up with the needs of leaders? Technology, the Covid-19 pandemic, climate change and political turmoil can drastically alter the economics of the world. How do we train our leaders to handle these rapid changes?
The meaning of work can vary depending on the individual and the context in which it is performed. At its core, work can be seen as the application of one’s skills and talents to create value for oneself or others. It can provide a sense of purpose, identity, fulfilment, and a means of earning a living.
Some terms of interest lately have been ‘quiet quitting’, the ‘great resignation’ and the ‘war on talent’. While buzzwords come and go, how do these relate to work in 2023?
‘Quiet quitting’ is the act of doing only what is required for work and nothing more. As inflation continues to drive housing prices, food, and other goods up, workers are not seeing value in working more for the same amount of money. This means people are completing the minimum work requirements and no longer going above and beyond, meaning no more working after hours or at home.
The ‘great resignation’ refers to a phenomenon where many employees are quitting their jobs, often simultaneously, due to a variety of factors such as pandemic-related burnout, a desire for better work-life balance, and a need for more fulfilling work. From a leadership perspective, ‘the great resignation’ can be harmful in several ways:
The ‘war on talent’ is a phrase used to describe the competitive landscape that companies face when trying to attract and retain skilled and talented employees. Companies are essentially competing with each other to find and hire the best employees, often offering attractive compensation packages and benefits to win over the most desirable candidates.
The phenomenon has been driven by several factors, including the increasing demand for highly skilled workers in industries such as technology and healthcare, the aging workforce and the global nature of the job market, which allows employees to seek opportunities anywhere in the world.
The war on talent can be particularly challenging for companies operating in industries with a high demand for specialised skills, as these individuals are often in short supply and may have more options to choose from. To succeed in this competitive landscape, companies need to have a strong employer brand, and provide opportunities for career growth and development (apart from compensation and benefits) in order to attract and retain the best talent.
Leaders, and by extension coaches, must address the underlying factors driving employees to seek other jobs or resign. People want to improve their work/life balance and be engaged in their work while supporting healthy brains and bodies. Fortunately, these goals align with the i4 Neuroleader™ Model, which is available to expand a coach’s toolkit. Get certified or read more about our diploma!
The leaders of the past would not thrive in today’s volatile climate. We face an entirely new landscape regarding leadership and support for leadership. The methodologies, focus points and background of coaches during the Imagination Age look very different from those in the past.
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Executive Coach & Psychotherapist
About my Brain Institute
Katharine is passionate about sharing her endless expertise and thought leadership on talent development, strategy, neurocoaching and psychotherapy.
Katharine McLennan has a career that spans corporate strategy, execution and leadership. Her specialty is facilitating executive teams in the integration of strategy, operations, team dynamics and self-transformation. Her ideas on the future of work, leadership culture and HR transformation are provocative and inspiring in seminars, speeches, or writing.
Katharine is now an executive coach and psychotherapist for a range of corporate, government and non-profit leaders of organisations. She focuses on corporate strategy, talent and psychology. She also works with individuals facing depression, anxiety, addiction, trauma, and career transition.
Her corporate roles have included: Head of Strategy and HR for the Federal Government's Export Finance Australia, Vice President of People & Culture of Cochlear, Head of the QBE Global Leadership Academy and Executive General Manager, Talent and Business Unit HR for the Commonwealth Bank of Australia.
Prior to her corporate career, Katharine spent TEN years in leadership consulting, providing advisory services on behalf of three major organisations: Heidrick & Struggles, the Mettle Group and PricewaterhouseCoopers. Through this work, she led projects in succession planning, CEO team strategy facilitation and executive assessment and development for ASX Top 50 clients, helping these clients to manage their internal pipeline.
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