Leading The Tribe #4

To Survive The Unexpected

Step 4: Tomorrow’s Leaders.

Our societies are and will be profoundly challenged by the COVID-19 health crisis. It will accelerate transformations that were already at work, as we can already see in the use of technology to operate remotely. In a world that is both confused and without clear perspectives, companies nevertheless remain one of the few places where authority is exercised in a legitimate way. Companies and leaders have therefore a critical role to play. Despite the new VUCA context (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity) we have been talking about, leaders have a recognized platform from which to exercise their leadership.

However, no single individual can survive this on their own. More than ever before leaders need to mobilize employees and teams to withstand the uncertainty, reconstructions and transformations we have discussed without aggravating existing stress and burn-out.

At the heart of their success is the leader’s self-knowledge and ability to deploy a set of postures and behaviors that will respond to the needs and expectations of those they lead. We are going to explore this set of fundamental postures and skills together.

When we look at the “leadership profiles” and competency models that companies have been developing over the years, we believe they have missed an essential element.

Fill the gap between leadership principles and leadership skills

Everyone in our part of the world agrees quickly on the values and principles that govern good leadership. To make it simple, the lists always include vision and intuition, charisma, ambition, assertiveness and a good dose of humanity inherited from the four traditional virtues of our Roman ancestors: courage, justice, prudence and temperance.

There’s also agreement concerning which more practical skills are required. Things like developing strategy and setting objectives; decision making; organizational competence; numeracy, teamwork, feedback, evaluation, negotiations, communication, planning, etc. But very little is said about how leaders can bridge the gap between expressing values through mobilizing specific skills in the field.

This is precisely the gap that we are proposing to bridge, through a leadership approach based on “postures” among which the leader must choose to interact effectively with their teams.

To do this, leaders need to ask themselves a series of questions such as: “Where am I in relation to my team and to my colleagues? Where do I “position” myself? What posture should I adopt? From where do I speak? Should I take a dominant role from “above”? Should I always be several steps “ahead”? Or should I be “among” them? “Beside” them? “Supporting” them? Or should I stay “far” from them? What does the context and situation warrant at every moment? Why?

These questions open up a new field that is not about skills but about different postures and positions in space. Each one responds to specific issues and circumstances. The following illustration shows the different “postures” that leaders can adopt in periods of radical change as they strive to maintain team cohesion and individual engagement.

Each of these postures responds to a particular need, situation or objective confronting leaders and teams in the current context. Each posture requires self-knowledge, specific skills and know-how. Working on these postures is an extraordinary way to get to know oneself better and to progress as a leader.

In the next sections, we will explore and exemplify how these various postures can bind together values and skills in order to respond to specific situations and environments.

In Step 5 we will consider what means “leading from above”.

Charles Gancel

April 2020


ICM Associates (Paris) is a member of the PAWLIK Consultants (Hamburg)

Have a look at Step 1 Leadership definition

Have a look at Step 2 The world as it goes

Have a look at Step 3 Facing dilemmas




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