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Nine key skills social and sustainability leaders need post COVID

20 May 2021 at 4:31 pm
COVID-19 has changed many aspects of our life, and one of them is the way social economy leaders need to lead their organisations, writes Ingrid Messner.   

Contributor | 20 May 2021 at 4:31 pm


Nine key skills social and sustainability leaders need post COVID
20 May 2021 at 4:31 pm

COVID-19 has changed many aspects of our life, and one of them is the way social economy leaders need to lead their organisations, writes Ingrid Messner.   

COVID-19 has raised our awareness of uncertainty and volatility, and emphasised our need to build resilience to mitigate future risks. All of this is necessary while also supporting people and environments that are in crisis mode. Leaders in the social economy have an important role to play in creating a more environmentally sustainable, socially just and economically viable future for all of us.

It is a huge leadership challenge. COVID-19 has acted like a magnifying glass as it brought the things that weren’t working to the forefront. There is a pressure on leaders to step up and do things more effectively than they already are. 

A client of mine recently told me that sustainability has moved further down the priority list of some of their key stakeholders. Influencing them has become more challenging and needs more skill. At the same time there are many other urgent tasks to be dealt with. Stress levels are rising. Many people are exhausted. It is even more important to make sure that every leader stays well and doesn’t get burned-out.

Thus, to become a more effective and impactful leader today calls for something entirely new. 

A different way of leading

I want to introduce you to Wise Leadership; a renewed, holistic perspective on how to lead yourself and others in a variety of unique contexts. 

This way of leading puts equal importance on three areas: self, stakeholders and systems. 

We often forget that we can only give what we have got. Thus, before you can lead others effectively, you need to take care of yourself. Leading stakeholders means focusing on activating the best in them. Leading in systems requires you to be fully aware of all relevant contexts and allow these to be your guide. 

Each of the three areas is supported by three practices: connect, care and commit. 

Connect is all about awareness

You must always have awareness of what is happening in and around you. You notice what truly matters to you, for your stakeholders and in your context environments.

Care is all about action

You deeply care for people and the planet and all beings in nature. You approach all leadership tasks with a sense of care. You decide consciously and carefully on how you interact with your stakeholders and all your context environments. 

Commit is all about accountability and delivering results

You take full personal responsibility to create positive, win-win results and changes. You’re spreading hope, and aim for positive impact. You implement your action and accountability plan and are flexible and adaptive. 

Connect, care, commit are perpetual learning and leadership processes that are needed for all levels of leadership: leading self, stakeholders and systems. To effectively connect, care and commit takes skill.

Nine skills of wise leaders 

If you combine the three areas with the three practices, you get the following nine key leadership skills.

Leading your self  

  1. Self-awareness: Notice your state
    Self-awareness is an awareness of your internal world (body, mind, emotions, spirit), and how you connect to the contexts of others and to environments. Higher levels of self-awareness take you off autopilot.

  2. Energy management: Prioritise your self-care
    The management of your personal energy is self-care. It includes all healthy and wholesome care activities that have the potential to improve your holistic wellbeing and performance in a sustainable way.

  3. Accountability: Create energy for change
    Things only get better when you feel 100 per cent responsible for achieving a specific outcome. You are the only person responsible for how you show up at work. You can’t lead others until you lead yourself. 

Leading your stakeholders

  1. Communication: Get to know each other
    Communication is about creating meaningful connections with other people. Ideally, it’s an exchange process with respect, curiosity, discovery and shared meaning. Labelling someone as “difficult” says more about your mindset and worldview than it does about them. It also limits your potential to influence.
  1. Collaboration: Work together
    Collaboration is about working together towards a shared vision or goal that’s too big for one person to achieve. Ideally, collaboration creates community spirit and natural flow; “we” is more important than “me”. When people feel like they are valued members of a strong community, they are more likely to deliver better results.
  1. Influence: Commit to win for all
    Influence is leadership without authority. A wise, influential leader makes things happen without persuasion or coercion, while being fully committed to creating a win for all parties. Facts alone no longer convince stakeholders, but effective influence leads to achieving your goals and vision.

Leading in systems 

  1. Context-awareness: Sense the whole system
    Everything is connected and influences your results. You learn to notice and understand all levels and perspectives of your unique context and that of others.
  1. Stewardship: Care about and for the system
    By approaching all people and environments around you with a sense of care, you become a force for good and a strategic influencer.
  1. Impact: Define what success is
    Every leadership action has an impact. How you define success determines how you relate to it to become naturally successful.

By practising all nine Wise Leadership skills, you’ll move from surviving to thriving professionally and personally.

You’ll have clarity and focus on the right things at the right time. COVID-19 becomes just another context challenge. It becomes easier to activate the right people to support your cause and projects. As a wise leader, you achieve more with less stress. Watch your influence and positive impact grow.


About the author: Ingrid Messner, author of Naturally Successful: How wise leaders manage their energy, influence others and create positive impact, is a mentor, coach, facilitator and speaker who supports leaders and teams to optimise their positive impact, performance and wellbeing. Using a holistic and practical approach, Ingrid improves leadership effectiveness while connecting people with nature and ancient wisdom. Find out more here. 

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