Taking leadership to a new dimension

Written by
Sarah Clark

25 May 2016

25 May 2016 • by Sarah Clark

Look beyond one dimension

Many leaders struggle with the complexity of the modern world and the pace of change. Their default reaction is to focus even harder on all the things they need to do. The problem is they take a one dimensional approach and and see everything as a series of goals, tasks and targets. The real competitive advantage lies in the two other dimensions of ‘being’ and ‘relating’.

Adopt a multidimensional mindset

Every moment of our lives is multidimensional. As you are reading this article, you are having thoughts. This is your interior ‘I’ being dimension. We are connected to each other through this article – the ‘we’ relating dimension. And you are also doing something – reading – the ‘it’ dimension.

Outpace the change

There is a commercial pressure on organisations and leaders to keep innovating and adapting faster to global change. Great examples of companies doing this are Uber, the biggest taxi company in the world (which doesn’t own any cars) and Airbnb, the biggest hotel company in the world (with no hotels). 

The ‘knowledge doubling’ rate was 25 years in 1945, now it’s every 13 months. Of everything you know about your organisation now, you’ll only know about 12% in three years’ time. Be responsive to these changes. If you’re leading the way in your industry, you could be leap-frogged by a competitor within three years.


Become a sophisticated thinker

Many people cite Nelson Mandela as their favourite leader, but he was imprisoned for 27 years. The only dimension he could cultivate was his interior self (the ‘I’). On his release, he made a conscious decision not to harbour hatred. He had developed his interior to such an extent that it enabled him to move forward and make a huge impact.

The same goes for Gandhi and the Dalai Lama; it’s their quality of being which makes them great leaders.

Develop yourself

Note the difference between ‘learning’ and ‘development’. When leaders attend courses, they gain skills, knowledge and experience, but remain the same person. 

Development isn’t about changing what you know, but the way you know it. Leaders don’t tend to mature much over the course of their career, they learn but they don’t develop. As the world becomes more volatile and complicated, they won’t get away with this. Start developing yourself, with a focus on how well you adapt to change.

Grasp what the future holds

For the next generation it’s no longer all about success, status and money, it’s about doing something worthwhile.

For the past 40 years, we’ve invested in the ‘it’, but it’s now crucial to look at the ‘we’ and the ‘I’ – that’s when you’ll see real competitive advantage. We need to shift mindsets.

Think consciously about how you’re showing up to work every day, developing yourself, and building relationships.

Be the best version of yourself

Stop blaming others for how you feel. The person who is actually making you feel stressed or overwhelmed is ‘you’. It’s down to how you respond to other people’s behaviour. Take ownership of your feelings and practise responding to negative conversations (tip: trigger a positive feeling rather than just thinking a happy thought).

Keynote at Future Talent 2016

4D Leadership: delivering competitive advantage in a complex world

Dr Alan Watkins challenged delegates to reassess their leadership skills in an increasingly VUCA world: “It’s interesting, the paradox of escalating change, yet some things never seem to change when it comes to leadership in the modern world,” he said. 

Watkins believes many leaders take a one-dimensional view of the world but that there are three key elements to becoming a great leader. You must consider the ‘I’, the ‘we’ and the ‘it’ – who you are, how you are doing things, and how you relate to people,” he said. “Once you have established this sophisticated way of thinking, you can take it to the next level: the fourth dimension (Watkins’ theory of 4D leadership). 

Watkins pondered: “Authenticity is the most widely used word in the leadership literature. So, if you really don’t know who you are, how can you be authentic?” He argued that the power of the human spirit, diversity and emotional intelligence provide competitive advantage in today’s world.

“Most CEOs are still focusing on commercial performance, as that’s what they’re hired and fired to do. If you start to focus on yourself and take a multi-dimensional approach, you can truly transform your lives, experiences and organisations,” he said.

Watch his full presentation here: