What makes a LIVED® leader?

We all know that the world is changing and that the pace of that change is accelerating at an unprecedented rate. As a case in point, researched predictions tells us that 42 per cent of jobs in the US are going to disappear in the next decade or so, with jobs that aren’t even thought about yet set to take their place.

Ultimately, this means radical changes are on the way to the way we all live, work and exist together, which presents organisations with fundamental challenges to operate differently to adapt to those changes. They now have to operate in what we call a VUCA world; that is a world where volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity is ever present.

The VUCA world is already the new normal and it’s in this context that we at a&dc have established that the way our leaders drive business if they are to be successful in this challenging environment.

While there are indications that the worst of the most recent global financial crisis may be over, there are still significant challenges ahead and our current environment is entirely different to what it was pre- crisis. Leaders therefore need to find a way of changing their approach to create opportunity,  success and critical competitive advantage. 

The term VUCA is nothing new and was actually coined around two decades ago, but businesses have been very slow to recognise the impact of it – and even slower to think about how to equip leaders and managers not only to cope but also to thrive in it. This might seem strange as business leader surveys regularly show that Leadership is high up on their list of priority issues. Could it be that they are struggling to know how to address their Leadership skills gaps? If that is the case then  a&dc’s latest research should be of great interest as it has led us to some fundamental conclusions about how to identify and develop successful leaders in the new business context.

The LIVED leadership model

According to Pip Clarke, Principal Consultant and Business Development Director at a&dc, traditional leadership models typically focus on three aspects of leaderships,  intellect – the ability to think strategically and make sound judgements – drive, which is the ability to set far-reaching goals and to achieve them and emotional intelligence –the ability to understand and manage your own and others’ emotions.

“So we know these three aspects have been and still are extremely important, but our research has led us to understand that today’s leaders need much more than that,” Ms Clarke commented.

“Today’s leaders need to be values-driven in order to inspire and lead successfully. For example, in the volatile world we live in, employees need to know not only what their leaders stand for but they need to see them walking the walk. They need the certainty that authentic leadership brings in order to trust and follow”

Ms Clarke also pointed out that in a rapidly changing VUCA world, leaders can’t just rely on past experience to see them through. Instead, they need to be able to apply that experience in a new context and be able to adapt and evolve quickly in order not to be left behind.

“We call it learning and it is really the lynchpin of successful leadership in a VUCA world,” she said.

The LIVED leadership model is therefore designed to promote all of these component parts: Learning, Intellect, Values, Emotional Intelligence and Drive.

“Our research tells us that the new world demands a much more holistic leadership capability, so successful leaders need to be using all  five elements,” Ms Clarke said.

“Not just some of them but all of them and they need to be using them together. The individual components are important but the magic formula, if you like, is the LIVED components coming together in an integrated way.

“It’s no longer enough to develop one or two signature strengths. Leaders need to be applying all of the LIVED components in unison. For example a leader who has strong Values but is poor on Strategy (part of Intellect) may well take his staff with him, but is he leading them in the right direction?

Leaders who demonstrate LIVED dimensions

While it’s hard to give specific examples of leaders who display each of the qualities outlined in the LIVED model, there are well-documented examples of people who use particular elements and are famous for it.

For instance, Harriet Green is often cited as leading the turnaround for Thomas Cook around at a time when it was clearly in the doldrums. According to Ms Clarke, she did this through having ”an abundance of energy and drive”.

“She really exemplifies the Drive element of LIVED,” Ms Clarke observed.

“She is apparently exhausting to work for, and needs very little sleep. She is relentless and very driven to reach her goals, which can be testing for those who work with her, but her ability to achieve results is unquestionable.

John Donahoe from eBay was flagged up as a leader who is said to show great emotional intelligence, as he has displayed an ability to manage his own emotions, self-awareness and an understanding of how to build good relationships.

Ms Clarke also noted that he is reported to have a “tremendous listening ability”, which has helped eBay develop both a “deeply loyal team and a health and evolving business”.

She went on to name Google as an example of a business where learning is high on the agenda. Indeed, she said it has a culture of “celebrating failure and feels that it’s okay to fail, but only once!”. Employees are encouraged to try new things, learn quickly from their experiences and adapt and evolve in order to create success going forward.

As for the values dimension of LIVED, Ms Clarke believes Andy Street of John Lewis represents this very well, as he’s very upfront about the firm’s moral compass and uses it to guide how it operates. He was also voted Britain’s most admired leader in a recent HR publication.

“There are lots of examples of well-known FTSE 250 company leaders who are demonstrating elements of LIVED, but I can honestly say that in our experience we have not yet found a leader who appears to demonstrate all five elements as strengths. If it is very difficult to find a leader that is using and applying all of those LIVED elements successfully,” Ms Clarke continued.

“And that’s really why we’re so excited about the LIVED model. We believe that applied in our turbulent and uncertain business environment LIVED can make a significant difference to leadership capability and then of course to business success. 

“If people can learn the elements of LIVED but also learn how to use them together, they will really strike gold in terms of business performance going forward.”

This is how we at a&dc are supporting our clients;  with the LIVED framework providing reassurance and confidence that their leaders can be equipped to deal with the VUCA world.

How to become a LIVED leader

In order to become a LIVED leader, it makes sense for a manager or boss to know where they sit against  the LIVED framework.

We at a&dc therefore provide people  with an objective assessment against every dimension of the model to create the certainty that we’re passionate about providing for our clients.

This gives a very rigorous and robust profile against each of the LIVED elements and generates very thorough feedback on what they need to do to accelerate their performance or maximise their potential.

“Once they’ve understood that profile and have a better self-awareness around LIVED, the next step is to provide focused and targeted development,” Ms Clarke commented.

“Our unique LIVED development programme  takes people through the journey of LIVED through each of it’s core elements.”

Our clients can therefore be helped to recognise and develop these dimensions, as well as understand how they work together  be leveraged for maximum impact.

“All of this development is done within the context of the modern business world and relevant business challenges,” Ms Clarke added.

“So we are always helping people to understand how they can apply the LIVED leadership model to address their business challenges and be make a real difference to their own and the performance of their business.”

What do leaders need to cope in a VUCA World?

We often hear these days that we’re living in a VUCA world, which means a world characterised by Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity.

In other words, the world is changing at an increasingly rapidrate and when problems arise they are often caused by a complex chain of circumstances, with uncertain and ambiguous consequences..

So what attributes and qualities do business leaders need to be able to perform effectively in this chaotic and challenging environment?

Nigel Povah, chairman, chief executive and founder of a&dc, believes that in order to tackle the demands of this  VUCA world, leaders must be able to utilise  a range of different skills.

This is where a&dc‘s LIVED model is “very critical”, he argued. The model comprises five dimensions of leadership – Learning, Intellect, Values, Emotions and Drive – and sums up the qualities Mr Povah believes a strong leader must possess.

“Three of those dimensions have been around for some time,” he commented.

“It’s always been recognised that leaders need to be intelligent, so the Intellect dimension of LIVED is an obvious one.

“Over time many leaders have  been selected because they have either been well educated or they’ve risen to the top of organisations because they can demonstrate a level of intellect.”

Mr Povah says this intellect is required because leaders must be able to look at a situation, analyse it,  weigh it up and then make decisions quickly.

Drive, is another well-established leadership dimension,  because leaders need plenty of energy and passion – and this needs to be infectious.

“When it is, it will inspire and motivate the troops and makes them more willing to follow the leader,” Mr Povah remarked.

This is intrinsically linked with the Emotions  dimension of the LIVED model. Leaders must be able to understand people and how best to relate to those they work with. They must also be sensitive to them and pick up on the issues and vibes that are going on in their interactions.

But at the same time, they must be aware of their own emotions and be conscious of how they behave in certain situations.

Mr Povah believes that if leaders can get this right, they can ensure their behaviour conveys the right impression to the people they are dealing with.

“They’ve got to be tuned in to their environment and know how to react effectively,” he said.

However, he stresses that these three traditional dimensions alone do not guarantee a person is a good leader.

Indeed, Mr Povah points out that a&dc‘s research has found that Values and Learning are also important additional dimensions.

Tesco was flagged up as an example of where this is apparent, as its recent financial irregularities demonstrate it has lost sight of critical organisational values, such as honesty and integrity.

This means that if senior managers had remained true to corporate values, they would have questioned what was going on.

“If an organisation has really strong, clear and well defined values that are well understood, they become a form of regulation,” Mr Povah said.

“They regulate how it behaves and what it does, because values define an organisation’s culture. The two are interlinked, you can’t separate them.”

The banking scandal was identified as another example of where organisations have slipped up because they failed to have a strong set of values. By contrast, Apple has clear values – such as a desire to innovate and create cutting edge technology – and they give it a clear sense of purpose.

But Mr Povah believes learning is also a critical part of the leadership mix, as they must learn what has worked well and what has worked badly in the past, so they can act accordingly.

“Leaders must be  learning  from their day-to-day working  experiences,” he commented.

“Learning needs to be a constant in the new world we’re living in, as the ability to adapt to new challenges is more critical than ever before.”

Mr Povah describes the LIVED model as a rounded model that covers all of the things that are really important to leaders.

“Because of this VUCA world, where change is so dramatic and so fast-paced, the leader has to  question things all of the time, asking are we doing this the best way we can, are we learning from our mistakes and trying to eradicate them?

“Are we able to respond quickly when such issues arise, rather than taking too long to make such decisions?

“If you take too long to work out what’s gone wrong, by the time you’ve rectified it, the world has moved on and new problems have arisen.”

In short, LIVED is the only end to end leadership assessment and development solution for VUCA readiness.