Defining Fluid Leadership in an Age of Change

While you could reasonably argue that every age is an age of change, I think we in the digital trenches would agree that the last two decades have been an extraordinary period of innovation with disruptions in communications, commerce, and productivity touching virtually every area of business practice.

Whole new industries and channels have emerged, while others declined amid the exuberance of start-ups, the bursting of bubbles, and the accelerating pace of change.

Many of the most prominent brands on the planet are a product of this period, and younger workers have brought a whole new set of expectations to their careers and employers. These significant changes have created a completely new business environment that requires a fluid and responsive leadership style that many have not yet recognized or mastered.

If you can’t attract the right kind of team and then inspire the best efforts from them, then marketing success is nearly impossible. This applies to both agencies and brands.

To earn that kind of engagement, it’s important to spend as much time learning to lead as we currently spend attempting to stay current with all the the changes in technology, channels, and platforms that affect our marketing arsenals.

Of course, subject matter expertise is critical. Yet having that knowledge without the finesse capable of bringing out the best in your teams won’t help you excel in the marketplace.

Below are a few reminders to help adjust your leadership style and approach for more rewarding results for both you and your teams.

1. Select a Dependable and Dynamic Team

While past experience can be a good predictor of success in a particular venture, the past loses much of its relevance when the future is constantly being reinvented.

Seek and mentor those with the passion, the analytic chops, and the inventive minds to understand and take advantage of the new opportunities that are out there. They should also possess the speed to market effectively before the next shift takes place.

2. Coach as You Lead

Strong performers, especially younger ones, crave feedback and development opportunities. Skills training and the occasional conference attendance alone are not enough for them achieve at the hyper-fast rise they expect.

You will both benefit if you help them earn the opportunities they seek.

3. Take Calculated Risks with Your Team

Give ownership of key initiatives to highly motivated staff members, and then stand back and leave them alone. Nothing demoralizes today’s workforce more than being micromanaged, but they are totally energized when they can define and deliver a passion project.

Set check-ins to ensure you are aligned to the high level goals you set out, and that budget and timelines are also in check.

4. Learn from Others

Our world has shrunken, so be a student of the world. Don’t only limit yourself to a small corner of the planet or to your industry competitors. Some of the most recent successful leaders took their cues from well outside their direct-line of sight.

Regularly challenge your teams to think about interesting, but seemingly abstract and unrelated problems to help them develop their critical thinking skills.

5. Know Your Priorities

Call it a mission, a vision, or your goals or objectives – they all boil down to the priorities that guide your decision making. While your core values should remain the same, the language and approaches you adopt will likely morph again and again to keep pace with changes in the marketplace and subtle shifts in your offerings or approach.

Make sure you continue to connect to those core values as your business changes, and that you frequently communicate those connections with your team.

Fluid leadership is open, transparent, and as fast paced as the current business environment. It requires you to suspend the ultimately false sense of security that what has worked in the past will work now and also into the future.

Today’s leaders have to quickly get comfortable with a productively destabilized reality and the stress it creates. This is because when productive stress is channeled in just the right way, it makes strong muscles, diamonds, and in the current landscape of digital marketing, successful marketers.

How have you adapted your leadership style for success?

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