Article by Nicky Stirling, Alchemist Practice Director
Recently, I had the opportunity to speak at the Management Today Leadership Lessons conference on the Next Generation of Leadership.
And if your reading of this article has just been interrupted by an email or telephone call from your manager…then lucky you.
Through every interaction with, or communication from, your manager, an exchange is occurring, you are receiving something; an anchor, a mooring, an affirmation.
You are receiving attention, at a time of attention scarcity.
The inherent nature of attention means that when your manager is interacting with you, they are, for that moment, ignoring other things. That’s good – on a simple level this makes us feel like we possess value and utility that our manager can’t derive from elsewhere. This feeling is psychologically satiating, as humans we need this, our morale, engagement, sense of security, safety and belonging within our team – and the company we work for – dips drastically if we don’t get enough of this. More specifically, a lack of attention can lead to a feeling of exclusion, also known as the single greatest stressor a human being can experience. Not grief, not loss, not anger, exclusion.
These are high stakes, and the implication for people leaders of now, and of the future, is profound.
In the attention economy that surrounds us, what is being said on the art of effective leadership is becoming increasingly reduced down into LinkedIn friendly formats and Podcast soundbites, there is a lot out there but what, from it all, holds true. What can leaders rely upon. What, intuitively, feels incontrovertible.
It is within this context – and against the backdrop of seismic changes to the workforce induced by the pandemic – that Alchemist are helping clients become clearer on their leadership non-negotiables; helping them understand the very real psychological and emotional responsibilities their leaders have towards their teams. Once these responsibilities are understood, we introduce them to an approach to leadership gaining prevalence within organisations committed to retaining their talent, their human beings, above all else, even during the Great Resignation.
At its’ core, this approach asks that all people leaders show an enduring desire to benefit and support others, regardless of personal cost.
For this approach to be attainable and accessible, an Alchemist learning experience for people leaders goes beyond offering tips and techniques for supporting team members, instead leaders are equipped with the knowledge and tools to build an ecosystem around their teams, an environment that enables and propagates:
- Interpersonal risk taking
- Expressions of individuality
- Sharing of ideas and information
- Reciprocated effort and views
These are all behaviours, pro-social behaviours. A team regularly exhibiting pro-social behaviours rapidly becomes a high performing team (see Google’s Project Aristotle), and just as importantly, a team where everyone’s distinctive value is known and recognised.
Creating a pro-social team requires pro-social leadership. A pro-social leader considers it a privilege to:
- Organise meetings, including 1-to-1s, for their team member’s benefit, not theirs
- Work tirelessly to create opportunities for their team member’s benefit, not theirs
- Give platforms for their team member’s ideas, not theirs
- Develop a team culture where the shrewdest, most thoughtful voice is heard, not theirs
- Lead the team towards a common goal, not theirs
The Pro-social Payoff
Pro-social leaders dedicate their time to designing, constructing and constantly improving an ecosystem that makes a positive difference to the careers and lives of their team members.
Pro-social leaders decide what they pay attention to. Like everyone else, their diaries are full of competing priorities, Zoom invites and dashboard update deadlines that move projects and productivity forward, but their focus, their attention, remains on the individuals that make up the team.
The aggregate effect of all people leaders approaching their role and leadership responsibilities in this way, in a pro-social way, can be staggering for our clients. Their managers quickly become a collective embodiment of what they want to be known for as an employer – an organisation that is confident enough to achieve success by having an unwavering focus on how to benefit – and be of support to – others.
So, if you did receive an email or phone call at the start of this article from your manager, then pro-social leadership may be on its way to you, alchemy is on the horizon, or…Friday’s deadline has just been moved forward. Either way, happy to talk, email@example.com
See Nicky discussing Pro-Social Leadership at Management Today’s Leadership 2022 Conference.