In today’s episode, we interview Dr. Annemarie Spadafore where she shares the leadership type that has best thrived in the pandemic, and now in the hybrid world. Annemarie is the managing principal of Powerlab, executive coach and author of, There is Only I in Team, scheduled to be published in December of 2021.
This type of leader that is thriving in the new dispersed work environment focuses on personal responsibility, takes the time to know themselves better, consistently assesses their boundaries, remains obsessively curious, and leads with a partnership approach. This partnership approach is a new type of leadership that thrived through the past 14 months. These leaders are now having authentic and vulnerable conversations with their employees about their return-to-work plan.
This Leadership Type is Thriving
Successful Leaders leveraged the quietness of being at home to re-prioritize. Leaders discovered their motivations by focusing on their strengths and how to utilize their strengths to best work alongside their employees.
They Took the Time to Know Themselves
Annemarie explains that most leaders live under a “layer of dust,” covering them from their awesomeness. During the Covid separation, successful leaders spent time removing that dust and gaining awareness around their strengths and priorities. In the pandemic environment, many leaders started to question their purpose and mission. The most successful leaders took advantage of the mindful questioning of the pandemic to re-discover themselves, their work, and their leadership approach. They understood that this was the time for self-discovery.
They Focused on Personal Responsibility
Successful leaders began to focus more on personal responsibility and recognize that they can only fully control themselves. They realized that they can’t force others to do things ‘their way’ and instead began to create spaces where entire teams and individual team members could take their own responsibility for defining their future work.
They Consistently Assessed Boundaries
Due to the pandemic, there have been many boundary violations that typically wouldn’t have occurred. With good intentions, leaders even put themselves into positions of giving personal advice. Giving too much advice is actually a natural reaction to stress that some leaders do as a way to gain control in chaotic situations. This is not helpful and leads to mismanagement of teams. The most insightful leaders reviewed their boundaries and found a balance between being supportive, and allowing their employees to make their own personal decisions.
They Were Obsessively Curious
Unfortunately, we have a much lower tolerance in the workplace for accepting people than we do in our personal situations. Traditional leaders tend to impose policies, procedures, and other structures to manage the behaviors of others. During the upheaval of the pandemic, most processes were abandoned as teams tried to just get the work done. The more effective leaders realized that the best approach was to step back, zoom out, and be curious. Such curiosity enabled these leaders to role model creativity and perspective. This, in turn, enabled everyone to design innovative approaches during a time when traditional structures no longer worked. By zooming out from their own personal perspective, these more centered leaders were able to see each person’s desires, thoughts and needs and to help everyone see the full spectrum of situations.
This Leadership Type Led With a Partnership Approach
In Annemarie’s work over the past year, the most successful leadership style has been a partnership approach where leaders and their direct reports work in tandem. The partnership approach flattens the power curve and helps teams take real ownership for results. Direct reports bring their skills, ideas, and strengths to work. The leader provides authentic conversations and continuous coaching towards goal achievement.
Identifying What Works Best for Your Return to Office Plan
As leaders brainstorm with their teams in creating their “return to work plan,” they should consider asking themselves the following when it comes to implementing a newly defined environment:
- What do I want to achieve?
- Where are my strengths?
- How do I play to my strengths?
- What am I capable of achieving in this new environment?
In turn, leaders should encourage their team members to consider the same questions so everyone can bring their best selves to the future of work.
Return to Office Conversations For Your Team
Inside the planning phase of each company’s return-to-work plan, leaders have a real opportunity for holding coaching conversations with their employees. Leaders have a natural tendency to treat everyone the same for the sake of fairness. Yet, over the past 14 months, leaders have had to treat each employee’s personal situation differently. This still needs to continue during this renewal period. Good leaders have become more comfortable with acknowledging each person’s individual needs and constraints and incorporating that stance in future plans.
Inside the return-to-work conversations with their teams, Annemarie challenges leaders to be more curious and open to ideas. It takes maturity and hard work to discover the balance between each person’s needs with that of the team as a whole. But this work reaps the fulfillment of both personal and organizational goals.
This is asking leaders to lead in a different way, and not all leaders can do this. If leaders continue to use a partnership approach, it will continue to instill motivation and increase fun, productivity, and growth. This is a two-way street: employees taking advantage of the space to voice their expectations, and leaders holding authentic and vulnerable conversations.
Clients describe Dr. Spadafore as a masterful cultivator of powerful, results-oriented, and resilient leaders; they rave about her ability to guide them as they overcome self- or externally-imposed limitations. As a Harvard-trained expert in Organizational Behavior, a Fulbright Scholar (Ph.D., Political Science), and ICF PCC, she is committed to the transformation of executives into candid and strategic leaders who wield power to achieve results. She further supports clients in expertly influencing, motivating, and negotiating with others. Dr. Spadafore has provided executive coaching to 1000+ professionals (C-level and senior executives), building their self-awareness and supporting their capacity to purposefully make strategic decisions to maximize business results.