There’s a long list of case studies of organisations that failed because they didn’t appropriately respond to changing market forces, disruptive technologies and new entrants.

Just as organisations need to change, leaders need to disrupt their patterns of behaviour and leadership styles to be fit for the future.

Shift the focus

It’s easy for leaders to get stuck in their ways and to see the traits that secured their leadership role as the competencies and capability that will carry them forward.

However, in a constantly changing world, success requires leaders to embrace the notion that successful organisational growth and transformation requires not just change for those around them, but also personal change for themselves.

Harvard academics Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey, who have studied why many crucial change efforts fail, found one of the core problems is the gap between what is required and a leader’s own level of development. They state: “It may be nearly impossible for us to bring about any important change in a system or organisation without changing ourselves (at least somewhat).”

Challenge established perspectives

Central to this is the leader challenging their perspectives.

Perspective is something we use every day and it shapes our thoughts, actions and reactions. Holding a perspective doesn’t mean it is right, nor is it necessarily wrong. It’s merely a point of view, which means leaders need to be open to changing it.

The hardest perspectives to change are the ones you hold about yourself, which is why seeking to understand yourself and build self-awareness is crucial.

As Daniel Goleman says, self-awareness is “knowing one’s internal states, preference, resources and intuitions”.

With this insight, you pay attention to how you are feeling and seek to understand what drives your thought processes and actions. You also recognise that knowing oneself is a life-long process.

Change the lens

To change that perspective, leaders need to be prepared to shift the lens through which they see the world and their place in it.

Here’s some tips to get you started:

  • Seek regular feedback – it is important and you need to seek it from people you know will challenge you and provide it from a place of good intent
  • Be open to different ideas and perspectives – when you hear an idea you don’t like, be curious as to why you don’t like it. Does it challenge a perspective of yours? Does it make you think differently in some way?
  • Understand your trigger points – notice when you feel uncomfortable or when you start to feel anxious, alert or in a different state. What has triggered this feeling? It is a comment, person or event? Are you normally triggered in this way? If so, why?
  • Be conscious about the choices you make – when making a decision, stop and reflect on it. Is it being made deliberately or is it being driven by the automatic part of the brain?
  • Embrace diversity of thought and ideas – seek out people with different backgrounds and ideas as they will open your eyes to different perspectives and experiences

As Harvard University professor of psychology Ellen Langer said: “In the perspective of every person lies a lens through which we may better understand ourselves.”