The housing industry is facing some incredibly challenging times following its peak activity during the pandemic. Being able to adapt to the new normal, which doesn’t seem stable at all, is testing even the best leaders.
At this year’s SXSW Conference, I attended two presentations on resiliency and leadership that both came to the same conclusion — the biggest threat to business right now is that we are failing as leaders.
During his presentation, Rhett Power, CEO of leadership consulting firm Accountability, pointed out that in the past companies would stay on the Fortune 500 for an average of 25 years, but that longevity is gone. Now, the average time has dropped to 11 years. Plus, the average lifespan of today’s midsize company is less than nine years.
That is a hard pill to swallow in an industry that is made up of so many midsize companies, but these leaders offered some ways to adapt.
Avery Baker is the president at global fashion brand Tommy Hilfiger and talked about this leadership challenge as an opportunity.
“It’s time to redefine what leadership means on our own terms based on the changes that have happened in the last three years,” she said. “We can take responsibility for the transformation that we want to bring about so that when we see our behavior reflected in our organization, we love what we see. We are being dared to meet this moment.”
Baker presents partner leadership as a way to approach the changing expectations of leaders, acknowledging that the struggle is real, but it starts with a leader who showcases humanity and integrity.
She presented these six keys of partner leadership, her approach to adapt to the new times and the escalating demands put on leaders:
- Know yourself. Reflect and try to recognize your own strengths so that if something comes easily to you, you don’t automatically assume it will come easily to others. Identify, acknowledge and embrace your super power.
- Show yourself. Open up to being vulnerable so you can gain trust.
- Go. Go full speed ahead because partnerships work best when they are moving forward. Staying static can drain the energy from anything. Set a bold goal and let your team pursue it, especially if you don’t know how to get there, which builds trust.
- Flow. Being flexible and adaptable is just part of business today. As a leader, you need to remove blockages so the team can find different ways to get to business goals and keep the flow going.
- Be bold. Playing it safe is way more comfortable than taking a risk, but lulling yourself into comfort is hard to get out of. The best partnerships are brave, transparent and human.
- Manage your own ego. Even as a leader, you need to feel valuable, but don’t do it by stroking your own ego. Pick someone on your team to hold you accountable and to chat with on a regular and frequent basis to keep you honest.
Power agrees that the past few years put incredible pressure on leadership, and now there are new pressures like high inflation and an impending recession.
In these trying times, 53% of employees are actually not engaged according to a recent Gallup study. Plus, less than 50% of managers know what is expected of them.
“No company is insulated from being disrupted,” Power said. “Without a system of accountability, there are no clear deliverables and objectives, there is little attention paid to key business performance, managers struggle to manage, and people chase bright shiny objects.”
He presents his system of accountability as an opportunity to rethink how to manage and lead. But, it’s not easy. Accountability requires effort and diligence, it can be uncomfortable, it exposes a leader to vulnerability, and it takes time and resources.
Adopting this system of leadership however can have a big pay off. Accountability leads to more employee engagement, cuts out distractions, creates a clear line of sight, facilitates teamwork, builds transparency, and fosters positive peer interactions.
Stories on the housing industry are everywhere these days, highlighting the various challenges from labor to regulation and from supply chain disruptions to interest rate hikes. It’s certainly a time for housing stakeholders to rethink leadership to build a new future.