As the world around us keeps changing, we must cope with greater uncertainty than before. Change also requires a new kind of leadership. This connects closely with the idea of psychological safety, which has emerged from recent discussions of leadership.
Introduced by Professor Amy Edmondson of Harvard Business School, psychological safety means the freedom to be candid and plainspoken (permission for candour): people interact without the kind of intimidation or fear that might prevent them from pointing out mistakes or expressing doubts.
However, psychological safety is only a means, not an end in itself. We need psychological safety to get the best out of ourselves and give a voice to the different viewpoints around us. This means leaders tolerating the discomfort caused by a torrent of opinions and viewpoints. Leaders should always be surrounded by challengers who dare and know how to ask questions. We can’t develop our operations if no one ever rocks the boat.
Leaders are not supposed to know everything. They must be able to own up when they don’t have the answers. In a psychologically safe workplace, we dare to admit that we lack knowledge or expertise, and we ask questions and voice our doubts. This creates room for new and diverse ideas.
In our new age, leadership is about coaching and supporting staff – enabling success. Based on our strong strategy and the resulting goals, we must create a framework that leaves teams and employees free to discover how best to fulfill those goals. This is about ownership, bearing responsibility for targets and continuously developing our practices. Self-management enables teams to respond fast to changing customer needs, without seeking permission from ‘upstairs’ every time.
Like uncertainty, a torrent of new ideas and suggestions can cause chaos. The anthropologist, Jitske Kramer, refers to liminal space, a concept which is important to innovation and new development. In liminal space, the old world no longer functions and the new one has yet to take shape. A leader must help their team to navigate this chaos – must point the way forward and clarify goals.
Much is required of leaders in these times. It’s not about either this or that, but both this and that. To lead, you need to be big hearted but tough inside.
|This article was originally published in Kauppalehti on October 3, 2022 (in finnish)|
The writer is OP Corporate Bank’s CEO and a Harvard alumni
Kirjoittaja on OP Yrityspankin toimitusjohtaja ja Harvardin alumni.
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