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What is new leadership?


28 May 2019 at 8:14 am
Mike Davis
With a dearth of leadership in the political sphere and trust in our major societal institutions waning, it is a good time to ask what does the new leadership we want look like today, and how might this be effectuated in the for-purpose sector, writes Mike Davis.


Mike Davis | 28 May 2019 at 8:14 am


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What is new leadership?
28 May 2019 at 8:14 am

With a dearth of leadership in the political sphere and trust in our major societal institutions waning, it is a good time to ask what does the new leadership we want look like today, and how might this be effectuated in the for-purpose sector, writes Mike Davis.

“To me, leadership is about encouraging people. It’s about stimulating them. It’s about enabling them to achieve what they can achieve – and to do that with a purpose.” Christine Lagarde

I was drawn to this quote from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) chair as it moves away from the individual toward empowering others to achieve with a purpose. It is about lifting those around us, helping them to rise to new heights.

Quotes can shed some clarifying light on one of humanity’s oldest puzzles – what is it to lead? This very question is as relevant to Lagarde and for the for-purpose sector today as it was to Aristotle and Confucius thousands of years ago.

Leadership is an elusive beast – it is hard to see in plain sight, but when it’s missing it is glaringly obvious. It is also hard to explain by static definition, but easier to understand when broken down to the sum of its parts.

A good place to start may be to outline some key enabling attributes or characteristics. Leadership has changed a great deal over time and new leadership demands some of the following key attributes.

Focus on the key attributes – PELT

This PELT list below gives you a useful checklist of some of the most important new leadership attributes. How do these attributes fit within your current leadership style or the leadership style exhibited within your organisation or by your organisation’s leader?  

Presence – Being in the moment enables greater focus, empathy, self-awareness and emotional intelligence. Harnessing these forces can result in better group decision making and higher quality decisions.

Elevation – Helping your team to improve and be better every day, week and year than when you arrived. Understanding how your role and style help your team to develop.

Listening – New leaders listen and consult more broadly than ever, trusting the advice and counsel of their boards, colleagues, partners, clients and service users more than ever.

Transparency – Clearly articulating your logic, rationale and decision is vital in the organisational setting for all stakeholders. It builds trust, cohesion and a strong culture.   

Pick a new leadership style

You will find the above attributes sit well in the following menu of new wave leadership styles including: adaptive leadership, mindful leadership, servant leadership and inclusive leadership.

Adaptive leadership is favoured by the public sector and emphasises helping to mobilise members of an organisation or community to adapt to significant change.

It emphasises the importance of adaptation to a complex and rapidly changing environment, and focuses on creating the circumstances for good leadership and problem solving.

“Yesterday’s adaptations are today’s routines.” Ronald Heifetz

The Institute for Mindful Leadership describes mindful leaders as embodying leadership presence by cultivating focus, clarity, creativity, and compassion in the services of others.

Mindful leadership prioritises empathy, presence, listening and connection to the people within the organisation. As well as utilising curiosity and openness to guide transformative change.

“Leadership grows like tall trees. It needs both toughness and flexibility – toughness for accountability – flexibility to adapt changes with a compassionate and caring heart for self and others.” Amit Ray

Servant leadership is described by The Centre for Servant Leadership as a philosophy and set of practices that enrich the lives of individuals, build better organisations and ultimately create a more just and caring world.

It flips the traditional leadership paradigm by putting the top of the pyramid authority approach to the side and focusing on sharing power, and putting the needs of others first and helping people develop and perform as highly as possible.

“Only a true natural servant automatically responds to any problem by listening first.”
Robert K Greenleaf

Inclusive leadership is exactly what it sounds like – leadership that assures that all team members feel they are treated respectfully and fairly, are valued and sense that they belong, and are confident and inspired.

Inclusive leaders prioritise curiosity, awareness of one’s own biases, courage, commitment, collaboration and cultural intelligence.

“Inclusive leadership is about recognising and valuing diversity or difference, and valuing people, recognising them for their skills, experience and talent, and treating them equally and fairly…” Moorvia Gooden

Each of these styles have had their moments in vogue – the trick is not to choose just one style, but to choose the best one or ones for you and your circumstances. What elements from each style can make you the best new leader you can be?

The bottom line

New leadership is chiefly concerned with how you turn up in the morning and face the challenges of the day.

Use the PELT attributes to think of behaviours you may want to adopt or enhance. Ask yourself what kind of new leader are you and do you aspire to be? Consider one of the above styles and each day ask yourself what would this new leadership style call for me to do today. How can I best embody this style or combination of styles?

If you take just one thing from the above discussion – listen more, explain your thinking more, be more in the moment and think about how you can best empower others to be their best each day.


Mike Davis  |  @mikedav84

Mike Davis is head of strategy at TaskForce Community Agency. TaskForce is a not for profit, providing wraparound support and compassionate care to vulnerable youth, adults and their families in South East Melbourne.

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