If we consider the need for agile, creative, and innovative minds to harness growth and opportunity in in these crazy, uncertain times, does our current mode of leadership thinking and being address the external factors (our market challenges; and operational capacity to meet these challenges) AND also the internal factors (leadership, team effectiveness, and cultural cohesion)? The polarity in demand between market pressures and the ability to drive effective results with people requires a different level of thinking. What is that ability to think differently? And do leaders and their people have the ability to truly think – or are we in a negative doom loop spiral of repeating past habits that are irrelevant in conditions of complexity, fluidity and uncertainty!

An exponentially changing external environment, especially from a technological perspective, means that skills needs are experiencing an unprecedented change in very short periods of time. This challenges the leader, manager and the employee in keeping up with that change. Is 'keeping up' the real issue?

The default perspective of leaders in addressing the competing attentions of market demand and talent development is to use an "external lens". We evaluate our business challenges in the tangible, physical world by predominantly asking two key questions. "What do the changing needs of my market look like?; "And what functional skills do I need to procure and/or grow to meet these changing demands?"

Yet this is only one, often limiting, view on the situation.

Creating a compelling, rewarding, meaningful and engaging case for drawing talent into the organisations, and then shaping the conditions for such talent to want to stay, is the other critical lens required for a new level of leadership thinking. This speaks to the intangible, "soft" conditions for creating motivating environments and for changing mindsets and worldviews. This is where we discover how hard it is to implement the "soft" elements.

And this is not just a local challenge – but a global one.

A mindset shift is the biggest stumbling block for leaders in the way they view their people, adapt to the work and create in their own minds, a radical shift of attitude towards attraction and retention of talent. While creating the right conditions, I speak not only of the functional and technical environment, but also of making the working place a desirable place to be in; a place where the right conditions reside in the inner world of of the minds and hearts of leaders.

Lets talk about Talent

Talent has become a soft and heavily laden word that speaks to an absolute – rather than a dynamic! We classify and stereotype the skills we want into a static indicator of content, inhibiting our understanding of the whole territory of talent management. Talent should be preceded by the word 'developing' – creating the onus on both the employer and the employee to create the conditions for talent to be relevant, vibrant and impactful. This creates a viable relationship for growth, trust and shared responsibility and accountability. It keeps the idea of talent as a responsive entity that is always shifting and moving to manage the conditions of the environment through skill, interpersonal engagement, innovation, drive, action and delivery on desired outcomes.

To do this, Leadership has to create the conditions first within themselves. Learning and Development needs to rethink its ability to see things from multiple perspectives, and to be truly able to create the kind of problem solvers and mindsets to hold the kind of agility and awareness that is required from a mature, alert, and open leadership and employee group.

Leaders, managers and their people often feel "in over their heads". There are very few navigational frameworks that empower us to make sense of the world. The feeling of being overwhelmed, ineffective and confused is the most prevalent obstacle we observe in our clients who are senior decision makers. Executives hit a steel divide as they get promoted into the top positions through increased demands on their time with an associated pressure for results. We see a "shutting down" of a learning, open mindset which disempowers the leader to engage challenges with different and better solutions. Pride (ego) and fear (both unacknowledged) creates a "shut down" of the 'leader as learner' – to the 'leader as knower'! And when pressure is placed on someone as the knower – that person is under constant pressure to never 'not know'! The mind becomes set, static and increasingly irrelevant! We also make the mistake of confusing the 'knowing' mind for the 'thinking' mind – with the consequence that we do not take the time, space or energy to enquire, seek new ways, and openly engage through listening and exploring.

And then…our intent as leaders to develop talent becomes stolid and often unapproachable. The singularly results driven mindset becomes a death knoll for a world that requires a multi perspective approach, energy, agility and a leader free of the contraction of limiting mind sets!

So, the big question to thought about and actioned – what does a mindset shift to create a change in culture, innovation, and engagement look like for you?

Dr Paddy Pampallis