Home » Blog » Becoming A Relevant Leader : When Crisis Calls
Attaining the status of “relevant”, unfortunately, can’t be bought and therefore has to be cultivated. Staying relevant means staying connected, affiliated, and being part of something bigger than oneself.
The reality is that every leader desires relevance. I am yet to meet a leader who did not desire to perform at a high level and make an impact. The issue of relevance, on the other hand, is not about gratifying your ego or resurrecting yourself at the expense of others.
Is being relevant such a defining pillar in a leader’s legacy?
Equally critical, but frequently overlooked, is a CEO’s ability to lead with relevance.
“My biggest fear is not being relevant,” replied Shivkumar when asked what his greatest fear is, to Gaurav during the podcast.
Shivkumar also mentioned, “ I think learning and unlearning is the only way to stay relevant. If you’re unwilling to learn as a leader, you’re unwilling to forget, as a leader. You have absolutely no chance in the future. Many people don’t understand this. The only thing all of us know for certain, because life is just accelerating at a pace. And learning is accelerating at 20 times that pace.”
Maintaining relevance is the most pertinent strategy for remaining afloat and rising above the crowd. Provide your clients and customers with a compelling reason to choose you over the competition on a consistent basis.
In business, relevance is a two-way street. You must be relevant in order to lead your team and to your customers who purchase from you. Successful leaders are always ahead of the curve because they pay attention to trends and adapt quickly to change. While it may be tempting to stick with what worked five years ago, or even last year, push yourself beyond your comfort zone to always present the best version of yourself and your business to your customers.
The standard by which you will be judged as a leader may be subjective to some. That being said, your relevance is determined not by how others perceive you, but by how you respond to the situation, the person, the challenges, the failures and the win.
Shivkumar spoke from his experience. Everything he said was authentic and visionary. For every new experience, a new update, a new decision is required. Time again there have been numerous leaders who led by examples. They are always going to be exemplary and remembered. That’s the legacy they carried.
Effective leaders who connect with their teams and inspire effective action are critical to a business’s success. For professionals looking to advance their careers and leave a lasting impression on their organisations, devoting time and effort to developing into an authentic leader can be extremely beneficial.
However, what constitutes idealized relevant influence, and why is it a worthwhile pursuit? We have a short list for you:-
1. Situational Awareness
The relevant leader prioritises empowerment over control. The task of the leader is to align the organization’s goals with those of the individual. Situational Awareness is proactive and sound decision making.
Following on the same line of thought, we can take the example of Ratan Tata. In the event of COVID-19-related deaths, family members of Tata Steel employees will be given their last drawn salary in addition to their regular salaries up to the age of 60.
A decision like that, made Ratan Tata stand out. Why you may ask?
As Shivakumar claims, “Great companies stay great under relevant leadership and reworking things all the time.”
Only when you are situationally aware, you can foresee the upcoming challenge and make decisions. A leader should establish a methodical, structured, flexible, and transparent planning process that integrates top-down, bottom-up, and middle-out inputs in order to bring disparate groups together.
2. Acknowledging and Appreciating
Leaders are incredibly busy individuals. We get that. However, the day you stop connecting with and building relationships with your people, you become irrelevant in their eyes.
Don’t be a leader with a PR team. You are because of your team. Let your team know you are there for them.
In 1997, three employees of Starbucks were murdered. Howard Schultz’s outstanding leadership was demonstrated when he flew directly to Washington, D.C., and spent a week with the three employees’ coworkers and families.
While some leaders may have stayed as far away from this tragic situation as possible, Shultz’s inherent leadership qualities prevailed. He did the right thing with compassion, approachability, and a commitment to meeting his partners’ needs.
Employees feel valued when their leaders take more visible actions, such as discussing an employee’s accomplishments during team meetings, mentioning their work during conversations with managers present, and providing them with opportunities to work more closely with senior leadership.
3. Be Innovative and Make Systematic Change
Staying updated is fundamental to being relevant. An innovative person can implement new changes assessing the trends along. The leader must be able to develop strategies based not only on prior experience, but also on intuition and an understanding of how organisational needs and challenges are addressed.
This example is quite recent. In 2020, Whole Foods was blamed for grossly overcharging customers for certain items. Of course the company needs to regain its customers’ trust. So it implemented training, enhanced packaging, weighing, and labelling processes, implemented a third-party audit in all stores, and communicated progress to customers.
Organizational awareness enables the development of a diverse pipeline of capabilities and the leadership of the integration efforts required to transform potential into impact.The relevant leader is realistic and optimistic, which enables him or her to implement innovative and more effective solutions.
4. Have the courage to listen to truth
Your value system is the starting point for relevance. Having a clear set of values serves as a compass for a leader. Let your team know that you care what they think of.
Quoting D Shivakumar here, “If you put the institution first, your team second, and you suffer, I think you will always win.”
People might say, you’re tough, you’re being unreasonable, you’re not being practical. They can use those words against you. But they can never say you’re selfish. That you’re playing it for yourself. Because in an institution’s growth is your growth. I always firmly believe that the main challenge for a leader at any level, even I’ve struggled with it, is TRUST.”
When you are a leader, everybody is at their best behavior with you. Nobody tells you the truth as you want to hear it. Look out and keep space for those who are true to you. To your vision. Many leaders do not get the logic when somebody disagrees with them. They think that someone is being disloyal. Which is not true at all. Their style of communicating to you that something is going wrong might not be well-put, but their intent is to do it right. So you have to differentiate between the style and the intent of the person, and what is leading to that.
When your values are unambiguous, decision-making becomes significantly easier. Values-based decisions are made in accordance with a set of guiding principles, not with what is expedient or popular.
Leadership is a broad, evolving, and contextual concept. Trends are reshaping how organisations develop, evaluate, and reward their leaders. The ultimate leadership challenge for leaders entering this new era of change is their ability to navigate through the fog of disruptive technology, intense competition, and mass globalisation in order to determine and set the course for their organization’s continued relevance.
Once you sit with your reflections, listen to this complete conversation with Shivakumar here.
Your relevance as a leader is tied to your ability and desire to build relationships with the people you lead. The greater the desire and effort, the greater relevance and impact you will have. It’s not complicated. We realize you will not have deep personal relationships with everyone on your team, but as a leader you should always remember that people are your most appreciable asset. How you connect and build relationships will make a world of difference. If you want to be relevant to your people then get connected to them. There are no shortcuts.
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