July 22, 2021

TPL Insights: Building Peak-Performance Cultures #77 – Building Peak Performance Cultures by Putting Purpose Back into Business

By Rob Andrews

By Rob Andrews with paraphrased content from Michael Chavez and Sudhanshu Palsule’s New Book Rehumanizing Leadership: Putting Purpose Back into Business

According to Chavez and Palsule, The workplace will be drastically different in 2030: AI, robotics and machine learning will threaten firms that cling to outdated 20th-century business models. But it will not be as dystopian as you might fear. Embracing your humanity is the secret to thriving in the new economy. Palsule and Chavez explain how to use valuable human skills, like empathy.

Successful 21st-century leaders will inspire meaning and purpose amid existential uncertainty. Organizations face an increasing need for leaders who embrace their humanity – or who rehumanize leadership. Those who want to stay relevant and keep up with the rapid pace of change should remember that being human – not mechanistic – will grow increasingly important over time. Each person’s approach to finding meaning, purpose and empathy will determine his or her performance in a world in which AI, algorithms and information are increasingly pervasive.

Society will face a growing crisis of meaning as the global flow of information disconnects people from their familiar touchstones. “Surrounded by big data, the promise of AI and the unceasing flow of information into the supercomputer we carry in our pockets and handbags, we are more confused than ever about the deeper questions that refuse to go away.” Help the people you lead discover their purpose and the meaning of their work through your passion, empathy, and mindful approach.

Four Factors will Shape Your Experience of Work in the 21st Century

  1. Complexity – The 21st century heralds a move away from linear modes of thinking and behaving, such as top-down corporate hierarchies.
  2. Millennial perspectives – Millennials expect leaders to be purpose-driven. Many don’t trust corporate leaders, due in part to their experience of the financial crisis of 2008.Millennials expect to be able to work remotely. They view work as a lifestyle choice, not a route to a paycheck.
  3. Ambiguity – People who feel inundated by information must decide what’s relevant amid uncertainty. Success hinges on coping with ambiguity.
  4. Adaptability – In uncertain times, leaders must be flexible and adaptable. Don’t try to insulate your firm from the rapidly changing world. Respond quickly to change and, when necessary, re-imagine your entire approach.

Purpose, Empathy and Meaning will be Key in Building 21st Century Cultures of Peak Performance

Practice empathy and embrace social responsibility. People need to feel they belong and have purpose. They experience those feelings when others show them empathy. Rehumanizing leadership requires consciously emphasizing the importance of meaning, purpose, and empathy. In firms with empathetic cultures, leaders value the organization’s human networks. “The journey to empathy is arduous and deeply humanizing as it is the result of dropping self-importance and the delusion of past knowledge.” Leaders of the future must let go of the dominant social narrative of the past – that human beings are selfish, work only to pursue self-interest and have no concern for others.

Leaders should challenge this narrative and embrace an ethos of social responsibility as they tackle business and societal challenges. Overcome entitlement or the desire to hoard power and resources. Instead, embrace “new power values” such as radical transparency, open sourcing, informal governance, expanded participatory processes and creative problem solving. Strengthen your ability to take meaningful action and to empathize with both your in-group and your out-group. Your brain contains mirror neurons, which activate when you perform an action or observe someone else performing the same action. For example, someone smiling at you triggers your neurons that are associated with smiling.

Building empathy requires allowing yourself to feel what another person feels and to reflect his or her emotions. Human brains tend to align with the inner states of those in their in-group – those who share their cultural background – but they have a harder time feeling empathy for those with different perspectives. Future leaders need skills in building relationships, managing teams of people from different backgrounds, and working collaboratively and creatively. “If hatred breeds hatred, empathy breeds more empathy.” To build empathy, make a conscious effort to identify and overcome your more primitive emotional reactions – anger and fear

Each week, we deliver content intended to help 21st century leaders build cultures of peak performance, which fully engage and fulfill workers, engage all stakeholder groups and deliver exceptional shareholder value. How are you doing on your journey? Let’s have a conversation and explore possibilities.

Warmest Regards,

Rob Andrews
Allen Austin
Consultants in Retained Search & Leadership Advisory