Leadership is no longer what it used to be. Traditional leadership models emphasised a person’s ability to set out a clear vision and mission and then to mobilise an organisation guided by best practices and aligned action. Although still relevant, the current pandemic has offered new and compelling insights into what gives an organisation strength and agility.

At our recent executive roundtable, we explored what it takes to lead and keep delivering when the world around us constantly shifts. With executives ranging from large media organisations and manufacturing to logistics and government, a theme emerged that could represent a fundamental shift in what it means to be a leader going from now on.

Over the past 12 months, the stories of success did not come from the head office in the form of new strategies or transformation programmes. The successes stories came from the front line. They were of people who had taken upon themselves to find solutions and a way forward that responded to local circumstances, strengthened customer relationships, and increased their operation’s agility. Some of these responses rippled through and impacted the whole organisation, whilst others remained local. Instead of looking up the hierarchy for answers on how to succeed, the front line took upon themselves to find solutions and the leaders became learners.

We learned (again?) that a leader’s job is not to have answers but to create a Potent Environment where new things become possible and motivate and free people to step up and take on a new level of challenge. In an environment where nimbleness and agility are key to success, it is the front line that can first see what is needed. Enabling and freeing people up where they are to respond rapidly, rather than reporting up the line to seek guidance, characterises the success stories from the past 12 months.

Herein lies the big shift. Increasingly it is not about leading from the top but about providing timely and relevant leadership to each person or group, exactly where they are and tailored` to the circumstances they face.

This is Granular Leadership – transitioning from universal guidance and stewardship, into leadership that is tailored, relevant and connected to each person and team. With Granular Leadership, the main information flow and learning are outwards and upwards. The top leadership’s role shifts from universal solution providers to becoming listeners, learners and relationship builders, ensuring that people are connected to what is possible and that great ideas flourish and are acted upon.

As we transition from hiding from the virus to co-existence, there will be a long period of experimentation and adjustment which will require continued agility and creativity. Thriving in this new uncertain environment will favour those who can step out of their traditional leadership roles and embrace Granular Leadership.

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