Future leadership begins with connections

HR leadership columnist Eva Sage-Gavin is a respected HR thought leader and former CHRO with more than three decades of extensive experience in global Fortune 500 consumer, technology and retail companies. She is currently Senior Managing Director for Accenture’s global talent and organizational consultancy and Executive Director for Technology. It can be sent by email to [email protected]

“Be caring. Inquisitive. Brave. Competent.”

So much has changed since I started my first column for HRE with these words four years ago. The shifts were seismic and changed our lives in ways we could never have imagined. Care, curiosity, courage and competence are perhaps more important than ever, and I would like to add one more word to the list: Connection.

Last but not least, the last few years have been a demonstration of how closely we are all connected and how much we long for connection. I believe that leadership for the future – across industries, countries and generations – begins and ends with connection.

As I finalize this leadership column in my four years as a writer, here is my Connect Four: Four Reasons Why Connection is an Essential Element of Strong Leadership, and Why It Is at the Core of our Call to Action in the toughest cases of times in which our life has changed forever:

Connection drives career growth

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve received is to think of your career and network as a circle rather than a leader.

In fact, in my 40-year professional life, I have six global corporations, three supervisory boards and 3 million kilometers traveled (and counting!).

As a manager, your circle – your experience, your skills and, above all, your networks – will expand over time.

When I moved, I took my network with me and was reminded again and again that it was not a one-way street. These connections grow through care and can in turn connect, creating new alliances and innovations that would not otherwise have been possible.

A new demographic study of CEOs found that newly appointed CEOs had much more diverse experience than their predecessors, having come from different parts of the company and different roles within the C-suite. The research also found that skills such as agility, empathy, promoting corporate purpose, and promoting inclusion are enhanced. It is clear that new leadership profiles have emerged through adversity: The CEOs of today and tomorrow are proof of the power to develop new forms of leadership skills in order to move companies and people forward.

Connection promotes collaboration

The pandemic has taught us the importance of coming together quickly in the face of a crisis. Most companies have never included pandemics at the top of their global risk assessments, and many have had difficulty responding, in part because agility in these situations relies on intense collaboration between organizations and ecosystems.

See also: Addressing the “Connection Challenge” of COVID-19

This interdependence is why connections are at the heart of any business’s future success, be it connecting with your customers, connecting within your organization, or connecting with a broad group of stakeholders.

The skills to support these types of connections are in great demand: Research from the World Economic Forum underscores the growing importance of collaborative skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, resilience, stress tolerance, and flexibility.

The collaboration goes beyond the bottom line. I have had the privilege of working with academic and public-private partnerships – including those at Santa Clara University, which focuses on developing various board members, and the Advisory Board of Stanford University’s Michelle Clayman Institute for Gender Research. These initiatives work to open doors and encourage connections for underrepresented groups.

Connection drives change

Businesses are being forced to transform faster than ever, and so-called “compressed” transformations are the norm today. At the same time, C-suite executives say their transformation efforts are often hampered by organizational silos.

When different parts of an organization are not connected, change is almost impossible. The same goes for the employees of an organization. When we talk about qualifying employees and staying digitally up to date as a company, we really mean giving people the tools to be agile and stay connected. And this connection promotes lifelong learning and the ability to reinvent and renew, not to mention personal and organizational resilience.

Accenture chief executive officer Julie Sweet recently spoke to Fortune about how technology makes new employees feel connected to their work, even if they have never been into an office. “The way you connect is through experience,” she said.

I can only agree with that: I started my career as a woman in technology in the 1980s and I can tell you that we could never have imagined the extent to which digital skills would become the key to connection and the catalyst for life change would.

Connection promotes engagement

I recently attended a G100 BoardExcellence event and was inspired by executives talking about the power of purpose. One line particularly resonated with me: “Companies with strong visions, values ​​and convictions still need a clear purpose and a convincing company history that, if used strategically, can inspire employees.”

Leaders are increasingly realizing the importance of strengthening their organization’s commitment to a purpose-built mission, and achieving those goals needs to be driven and anchored throughout the organization by the CEO.

In my experience, the connection drives that commitment by ensuring that a sustainable, authentic purpose is part of the fabric of the company and is clearly communicated and deeply embraced. When companies are networked, everyone is investing in achieving this goal. As employees change jobs at record speed and companies struggle with great resignation, we see the power of the goal of attracting and retaining talent.

Author and social scientist Brene Brown defines connection as “the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard and valued”.

Writing this column over the past four years has been an honor and an experience that I will take into the future. While this will be my last post here, I look forward to keeping in touch.

About Ellen Lewandowski

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