The ‘uncomfortable truth’ facing Aussie leaders – and the solution to it


Businesses exist to solve problems. It is up to leaders to
decide what problems to centre their vision around.
Image source: Getty Images

Collectively, Australian leaders are navigating an uncomfortable truth: most want to create businesses that liberate the command-and-control styles of the past, and that make an actual impact; and they’re not equipped to achieve that in an unpredictable world.

The unknown can overwhelm and undermine but when leaders increase their tolerance for ambiguity, they become event ready.

Businesses exist to solve problems, and it’s up to leaders to decide what problems to centre their vision around.

Putting a method to the madness looks like businesses choosing from a set of highly impactful societal goals they can contribute to. Leaders can also choose how they’ll lead.

There are more leadership styles now than ever. From the original Great Man Theory, through to the Authentic and Transformational theories, there’s a vast buffet of approaches. The most popular are those that empower.

Some leaders have a metaphorical hangover from the past, where ‘command and control’ business was the norm. It’s an uncomfortable and disempowering place to be, with little to no room for succession, positive impact, or workplace fulfilment.

Learning from that, modern businesses often prefer to strive for autonomy, ownership, empowerment and accountability. Leaders of all levels can decide how they work, whether that’s a set of practices, or a guiding principle. Leaders can choose to empower every team member in their workforce to challenge and support each other, to prioritise their psychosocial wellbeing, or to throw the rulebook out the window and try something new within the boundaries of their purpose and values.

That’s the benefits. Facing the burdens can be a different story.

Ultimately, leaders are accountable for the success or downfall stemming from the purpose or vision. They’re accountable to themselves, to their people, and their stakeholders. Bearing the weight of that accountability becomes even more of a challenge when leaders are fearful of the unknown.

That’s when leaders become islands, disconnected from their people, purpose, impact, and self. That’s when they’re internalising the command-and-control approach, and taking it all on board themselves.

Many leaders unconsciously and consciously bear the brunt of change and uncertainty, assuming it is beyond what their people can cope with. Authentic leadership is sharing both the soaring highs and the dragging lows; diluting the burden and collectively celebrating the wins.

Not only will workplaces cultivate greater empathy, but they will quickly uncover the leadership potential that exists within their own walls.

Annie Simpson, co-founder and chief consulting officer at Modern People