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ARTICLE: The Best Leaders Are Versatile Ones

A recent article describes two big challenges characterizing leadership today: the need to juggle a growing series of paradoxical demands—do more with less; cut costs but innovate; think globally, act locally, and the unprecedented pace of disruptive change, which speeds up the interaction of these demands while increasing the pressure on organizations to adapt.

These challenges have amplified the need for versatile leaders who have the ability to cope with a variety of changes and the wherewithal to resolve competing priorities. Versatile leaders have more engaged employees, higher performing teams, adaptable and innovative business units, and capable, competitive organizations because they know how to disrupt before being disrupted.

The first step toward helping leaders develop versatility is assessing their current ability to use an effective mix of strategic and operational behaviors. Research shows that only a small number of leaders have fully mastered the range of skills needed to be versatile because most tend to favor leading in ways that are based on their natural strengths even when other behaviors would be more effective. As a result, their strengths become their weaknesses.

In order to become more versatile, leaders need to first learn from a variety of different and challenging work experiences that can broaden their perspective, promote a wider range of skills, and provide a network of colleagues with different expertise and points of view. Also crucial is ongoing feedback and development. Versatile leaders not only respond well to change, they also change their behavior in response to constructive criticism. A final strategy for developing versatility is personal development: becoming more well-rounded. This involves being aware and open to opposing skills and behaviors and not being blinded by your strengths. Versatile leaders show a pattern of stepping beyond the familiar and comfortable, often intentionally, to stretch themselves.

The wider a leader’s lens on the world, the larger their repertoire of skills, abilities, and behavior, and the broader they are as a person, the more likely they are to lead their people, teams, and organizations to success in a rapidly-changing world. Read the full article here.

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