After a year of constant uncertainty, it’s understandable that leaders are feeling overwhelmed and exhausted, that they are questioning their ability and energy to successfully support the “new normal” now unfolding in workplaces.  Data gathered in May 2021, by The Leaders Lab with more than 1,000 Australian workers representative of the working population, found that nearly 60% of Australian leaders reported they were struggling.

“The Australian data supports what we know from our work with leaders around the world,” said Dr. Paige Williams, co-founder of The Leaders Lab.  “Despite their best efforts, leaders are struggling to be the leaders they want to be as they navigate the challenges and opportunities they face each day, the constantly shifting landscape in many workplaces and an ever-growing list of ‘management’ expectations.”

While there is no doubt that many leaders are struggling, 22% of the leaders surveyed reported that they were thriving with ease.  These leaders and those who were leading well, despite struggles, were statistically more likely to have higher levels of wellbeing, more job satisfaction, better performance, and greater commitment to their organization than other leaders.  They were also likely to report higher levels of performance for their team and their organization. 

What’s different about these leaders who are thriving?

“Our research and other studies have found that leaders who are able to thrive even in the face of disruption and uncertainty, aren’t just “doing” things differently,” explained Dr. Williams.  “They are “showing up” differently due to the leadership mindset they hold – their beliefs – about their roles and responsibilities at work.  They have let go of outdated models of leadership that no longer serve them or the people they lead, and adopted what we have called a THRIVE mindset.”

Leaders who have a THRIVE mindset believe their role and responsibilities as leaders are best met by being:

  • Tailored – they willingly flex their leadership style to suit different contexts.
  • Human-Centered – they seek to bring out the best in their people.
  • Realistic – they leverage instability, disruption and unpredictability as needed.
  • Inclusive – they invite different perspectives.
  • Value-Driven – they create psychologically safe spaces for learning and success.
  • Energizing – they invite ownership and foster accountability. 

“Different THRIVE beliefs may be more important for different leaders and their teams at different times,” said Dr. Williams.  “However, our data suggests that the more frequently leaders demonstrated their THRIVE beliefs, the more likely they were to report higher levels of wellbeing, job satisfaction, engagement, and performance for themselves, their team and their organization.”

What you can try to bring your THRIVE leadership mindset to life:

  • Tailored – Flex your leadership approach to the contexts in which you and your teams find themselves between tell-and-control and ask-and-invite as needed.
  • Human-Centered – With humble curiosity, seek to understand the hopes and strengths of others and create meaningful work and connections to help them consistently do their best work.
  • Realistic – Embrace instability, disruption, and unpredictability for the possibilities that they bring to create new opportunities.
  • Inclusive – Be an effective ally and intentionally invite different perspectives, experiences, and ideas into conversations.
  • Value-Driven – Create psychologically safe spaces by normalizing struggle, encouraging experimentation and rewarding learning.
  • Energizing – Prioritize and invest in meaningful coaching conversations that invite ownership, foster accountability and support autonomy and self-organization.

Of course, a THRIVE mindset certainly doesn’t ensure that everything goes perfectly for leaders – after all, you’ll still be working in the real world with all its unpredictability, uncertainty, and messiness.  However, what a THRIVE mindset enables you to see is that the inevitable struggles every leader faces are an opportunity for learning and growth for yourself and your team, rather than a sign that you are not up to your role.  It reminds you that great leadership involves both thriving and struggle, and gives you the confidence to embrace and navigate both. You can download the full free Leaders Lab report here.