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All hail the Avocado Leader. A healthy future for business.

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Now more than ever, shareholders are losing patience with leadership while employees and customers have a greater sway. A recent Strategy& research paper highlighted that Australia’s CEO turnover rate was highest in the world at 21.9%

The ivory towers of the past have been dismantled by social media, royal commissions and glassdoor.com reviews.


So, how can modern leaders adapt to this change?


Enter the Avocado Leader

Soft on the outside, hard on the inside.

How many times have you read an article on LinkedIn about the importance of soft skills? Google tells us that there are 456,000,000 hits in a simple search. Gurus are selling the power of empathy, authenticity and adaptive leadership styles. In theory this is great, but in practice the expectation for leaders can be unrealistic.

There is a conflict in traditional leadership theory. The majority of executives are incentivised by growth, revenue and other hard business metrics, not their level of empathy or self-awareness.

Okay, this idea is a bit firm, and a bit green, but the logic stands. The future of leadership requires balance. Enter the Avocado Leader.

So, how can this fruit help you build your internal leadership capability in your business?


Growing Avocado Leadership

There are three simple steps that you can take to start harvesting the untapped potential of your leaders.

1. Set clear expectations

We need a balance between ‘the hard’ – commercial acumen, determined results orientation, and ‘the soft’ – empathy and the emotional intelligence to create psychological safety.

As a result we need our development initiatives and performance processes to clearly link individual leader behaviour to these desired outcomes.

Leaders need to create an environment that helps employees share their ideas, disrupt and challenge. But, this is not at the expense of business priorities. The art here is to skilfully ask for challenge and if you disagree then explain the business rationale behind why.

We need to reset expectations about what leadership behaviours are required to deliver on strategy. And, ultimately hold leaders accountable to these (see step 3).

2. Build capability to manage the hard with the soft

Develop your leaders by focusing on business outcomes. What is your business case for investing time in soft-skills? Leaders who demonstrate empathy, authenticity and emotional intelligence can help your organisation accelerate growth, innovation and create an environment where the best idea wins.

3. Hold leaders accountable

Greater appetites for transparency and accountability is leading some boards to hire a psychologist to give feedback on their meetings. Transparency drives performance because it helps leaders understand what behaviours to prioritise over the rest. Get this right and you have a competitive advantage.

The key for any organisation is to stick with it. Nothing will change if you are not prepared to hold leaders accountable for being leaders.

The key takeaway for me is that the future of leadership requires balance.

  • Too soft and we will never get executive level buy-in or investment.
  • Too hard and we will build cultures that inhibit psychological safety, growth and innovation.

If you’re interested in learning about how we’re helping organisations navigate the future of work through leadership effectiveness, book in a cup of tea with nick.tucker@weareunity.com

November 25, 2019, mazz.napier