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2024 Leadership mandate: Grace and Space

Give each other grace, and take the space you need to get right with right now.  My clients, colleagues and friends are all sharing the same experiences I’m having, feelings of impotence at the bigger pictures, feelings of anxiousness to DO something as an individual, and a growing dissatisfaction at permissions we are seeing other people take in so many (many) ways.

Here are some truths I’m anchoring on right now.

  1. You cannot know the experience of another person.   My experiences are my own, yours are your own, and trying to make collectives of shared experiences is a waste of time, creating weak alliances and many alienated “outsiders”.  Instead, find where we ALL have the same need, for space, grace and recognition that right now is way strange in ways we need to leave room for, not occupy with our own assumptions.

  2. You have a limited role in another person’s life.  Your brand, your role, your organization, you are part of someone else’s story and you don’t control how much of that narrative you can have.  Sorry, marketers, that means you too, and your brand panic does not make you relevant in my actual life.  If you are panicking, check yourself first, find your OWN "true north", and then proceed accordingly with integrity. All else will resolve.

  3. As leaders, you can’t control the weather, just the outerwear you provide.  Mistakes are being made because leadership forgets who to talk to.  Don’t talk to customers.  Talk to your people.  Your people talk to customers.  An old Starbucks truism was that the company takes care of store partners, who then took care of customers.  Something to remember.  What is the environment YOU foster to encourage those you lead to feel safe to give their best?  Go back and read that again.  Feel safe to give their best.  Hm.

  4. A brand promise is not a just a phrase in a thesaurus under “marketing strategy”.  It’s the promise of a brand, an organizing principle of products and services, to its value chain of participants, who are suppliers, customers and internal stakeholders (like employees).  Why are you worth life energy from any of those people?  That’s the brand promise.  Engage with us in an exchange of value and we will all be better for it in these ways, for the long term.  That’s a brand promise.  How does yours stack up to that definition?  (Hint to find out - how are your longevity/retention numbers?  Today’s revenue is an  ephemeral accounting rendering; proud retention is true brand loyalty, and that’s from a former accountant.)

  5. Incompetence is self-limiting.  I have to believe this because I can’t follow up with all the examples I’m seeing and I have to trust in a bigger system at work that will control the impact the truly incompetent can have.  Maybe that makes me an optimist, but it’s how I keep going and don’t turn around and just lose it on someone. 2023 provided so many instances proving the sheer depth of how-does-this-person-drive-a-car wow incompetence possible that I had to reframe it.  So I leave it in the “bless your heart” category and step around, y’all.

  6. 2024 is going to be a mess.  There will be no perfect moment to say all the things and have everyone love you.  Stop saying so much, first off.  Leave room for listening (what??!), hearing someone else’s point of view focused on the problem at hand. You cannot control what happens next.  You can only contribute to how someone feels when they face it.  A good leader wants their teams to feel ready and resilient for what is coming, confident in their scope and abilities, and in the mission at hand within a bigger picture.  A good leader needs to trust in desk-level and team decisions, the ones that happen every minute, and provide the leadership of busting barriers, supporting risk-taking, providing safety nets and championing advocacy, to make learning decisions that increasingly mature the team and their abilities to see around corners.

How do you convert to this way of leading?  

Get humble.  Get on your figurative knees and recognize that you don’t know it all and no one expects you to.  If that’s a question, then you have an abdication from above or below, and last we checked, we’re all adults here.   Pose the question. 

Listen to the answers.  Find the ranges of solutions.  Test for what’s possible.  There are so many techniques that are tried and true, but you have to want to listen and be willing to be open to things you haven’t thought of yet. 

But first, at the end of January 2024, practice grace and space.  Stop pushing your narratives, stop telling people what to think or how to operate as pieces on the chessboard of your presumed strategy to manage the tone of 2024.  

The people you support or lead need the physical, mental and emotional space and grace to adjust to how they feel, as humans in context, so they can calibrate their availability of energy and intellect for the task at hand.


Your ability to do that will determine whether your leadership survives 2024. 

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