As the world becomes more fixated on dimensions of leadership, I began noticing the headlines suggesting ways in which leaders were thinking outside of the box. With one news article after another about a leader of an organization implementing the latest eye-catching policy, one major theme struck me. These weren’t leaders just doing things to make the front page. These leaders were doing things that benefitted people, ultimately benefitting the company and the world as well. And how did they make it happen?
They simply did what was right.
Prime Minister Jacinda Arden made it possible for parents who suffered miscarriages or stillbirths to have paid parental leave by making it law. No longer does a parent have to use sick leave when tragedy strikes. This law not only makes leave available for mothers, but their partners as well. Here’s the best part about the law (and the most telling about how leadership is changing): the law was referred to as “compassionate.” In other words, this passage does not simply make sense – a loss such as stillbirth or miscarriage is traumatic and requires healing – the law shows that leaders are thinking in terms of empathy, sympathy, and compassion. Let’s just say it- leaders are allowing feelings and emotions to contribute to decision-making. That is remarkable and a great change from how we are often taught to lead.
After months of social media memes about “Zoom fatigue,” someone decided take it a step further and eliminate virtual Friday meetings. Jane Fraser of Citigroup implemented Zoom Free Fridays for her employees. You read that right. Someone actually believed what many people had been saying: home and work life (during a pandemic) blending makes for bad mental health. She realized it and chose to do something about it. Work will continue in other ways on Fridays, just not virtually.
How many times have people argued for free college? Virginia governor, Ralph Northam, made community college tuition free for low and middle-income students studying for jobs in high demands fields. Signed into law, low and middle income students attending community colleges full-time to work in high demand jobs will qualify for coverage of tuition, books, and fees. By making this law, other states now know that this step is a possibility.
Now, we know that in order to create a strong environment, trust and respect are two characteristics as the core of that kind of atmosphere. So what happens when policies like the ones above are implemented? Well, any environment where respect and simple human decency are central tenets, a strong relationship with hard workers who want to see positive outcomes end up as the result. Sounds great, right?
Since we know that it’s possible to do the unthinkable and eliminate archaic rules and ideas, it’s time to think about ways that you can implement practices and policies that help those around you thrive? Take some pointers from those who have done it:
- Listen to those around you: You should never get nervous when there’s a lot of chatter within your team. Only get nervous when that chatter turns to silence. That usually means that your team no longer sees the point in voicing their opinions because the results do not benefit them. Instead, listen to what others are saying. What’s working well? What do others wish could change? Where are the barriers? Then, start assessing what can eliminated and adjusted. Anything that can be changed should be changed.
- Recognize that everyone’s not you: It’s very possible that, for a time, Jane Fraser saw no problem with having Zoom meetings on Fridays. It’s possible that the governor of VA did not think about free tuition early in his career. He may not have seen the point. It’s also very possible that (again, for a time), Jacinda Arden did not think about giving paid personal days for pregnancies that did not end well. However, they realized that others were thinking about those things and had a problem with the status quo. As leaders, they were willing to make changes by focusing on the positive points about the arguments. In these cases, the positives outweighed the negatives.
- Be authentic: One thing that I enjoyed about watching Jacinda Arden do live videos during the pandemic was that there were times where she wasn’t dressed professionally. Sometimes, she looked no different than I did when I just finished picking up my kids’ toys after a long day at work. It was beautiful to see someone who could just be real, and it didn’t take away from her intelligence or her role as Prime Minister. Let’s be honest, employees like it when their leaders are relatable. However, some leaders find it hard to be authentic because authenticity = vulnerability. Guess what leaders? Sometimes, you’ve just got to take the risk.
Now’s a better time than ever to make changes to rules that are no longer working. Look at your organization with fresh eyes. What policies and practices need to be changed? Who would benefit in the end? What are possible outcomes? How could the changes possibly benefit your organization and the people who look to you? These are things to think about, but don’t think too long. If you do, you’ll never make the needed changes that will completely launch your organization into something better, happier, more efficient.
Keep leading and stay safe,