When engaging your people means learning to let go

In times of uncertainty, it can be tempting to exert control wherever you can. Stealing back that little bit of certainty feels powerful. Whether it’s making the decision that could have been made down the line or doing the work instead of delegating responsibility, the result can be personally satisfying. At least in the short term. Long term, the impact is damaging not only for the individual but for their wider team and the organisation.

To rise to the challenges presented by the age of disruption, leaders must recognise that they can’t do it all. Their energy must be keenly focused on the things only they can do and that means letting go of control of the things that can be done by others. But letting go doesn’t mean casting aside, it means actively engaging and enabling others so that they can perform.

Self-Disruptive Leaders know how to let go

The capacity to confidently and responsibly let go is a central quality of the Self-Disruptive Leader, explored in Korn Ferry’s latest report. Our research defines the qualities of a new kind of future-ready leader with the capability to steer organisations effectively through the seas of disruption.

Self-Disruptive Leaders are equipped with a portfolio of future-oriented and change-ready skills that enable them to keep responding to fluctuating market demands with dynamism and insight. Put simply, these leaders are situational chameleons, with an endless capacity to ADAPT: they Anticipate, Drive, Accelerate, Partner and Trust to successfully propel their organisations forward.

There’s no doubt that each of these capabilities is necessary for future success. But it’s their capacity to drive with purpose and trust their people that enable these leaders to step back and, through doing so, positively impact engagement and enablement. It represents a shift in leadership styles from pace-setting (and sometimes coercive leadership) to empowered leadership, trusting in others and their ability to contribute without being micromanaged.

They do this by engaging the whole person and building a foundation of mutual trust.

Engaging the whole person

Self-Disruptive Leaders are masters of energy management. They understand that change takes a toll and they see it as their responsibility to guide people with purpose through uncertainty. Again. And again.

These leaders are empathetic and can relate to the thoughts, emotions, and experiences of others, but they also know that emotions can be contentious, so they watch for and manage their own. Knowing colleagues are often exhausted and working at the edge of their comfort zone, these leaders focus on helping colleagues replenish what they need to sustain performance.

This may sound like it contradicts the need to let go in order to boost engagement. Indeed these leaders are more present than ever. But this misconceives what the Self-Disruptive Leader is doing here. Letting go does not mean disappearing. Only through engaging with each individual as a whole person - with emotions, stresses and anxieties - can leaders be confident that their people are supported to go above and beyond what they need to do each day to really drive performance.

Nothing happens without trust

The traditional paradigm of the heroic leader is doomed to fail in these circumstances. The Self-Disruptive Leader embraces inclusivity: sharing goals, sharing responsibility, and sharing power. And this can only happen on a foundation of trust that has been earned between leader and team member.

While cliched, it’s true that trust won’t simply be given, it must be earned. Self-Disruptive Leaders earn trust by helping diverse individuals achieve a personal sense of purpose. And they take it a step further, aligning individual aspirations with the organisational purpose to help ignite people’s passions.

This is what the future of leadership looks like. More than ever before, leaders must devolve responsibility, confident in the direction they’ve set for their people and the mutual trust between them. It’s only when leaders can let go that they’ll have the bandwidth to engage and enable their people in this way.

Learn more about the uncommon characteristics of Self-Disruptive Leaders and how to identify and develop them in your organisation.