Looking to Lead into the Future? Get back to the Core of Leadership.

Leadership is a science, an art, and a sport.

It takes creativity, a reliance on proven data and research, high self-awareness, and practice to stretch into extraordinary leadership -and that is under normal circumstances.

Yet these are not normal circumstances; these are, as we have seen described over and over again (to the point of irritation), unprecedented times.

Leaders who have historically stood out as excellent (and you may be one of them), are finding themselves in unfamiliar territory. Their personal lives have been upended while their employees and organizations face a variety of economic, health and wellbeing challenges, and in some instances, crises. Even strong leaders with a solid leadership foundation of personality, skill and capability are faced with having to level up their game if they intend to lead their people and organizations into the future successfully.

The truth is that what worked in the past does not necessarily work now.

Getting Back to “the Core” 

In today’s climate, leaders need to pay close attention to the core of their leadership in order to stay focused, balanced, and on track.

We define “the core” as the foundational leadership competencies that ground and elevate performance excellence, especially in times like these: awareness, agility, and agency. These core competencies live squarely in the center – the essential heartbeat – of high performance and success, and our Sustainable Inspiration™ Performance Model. This proven model, rooted in decades of research on situational leadership and collective performance, offers a comprehensive picture of inspiring performance at leader, team and organization levels. 

CORE graphic: Sustainable Inspiration™ Agility, Awareness, Agency

It all starts with sparking and sustaining inspiration in people across the organization. Based on our own original research, we define sustainable inspiration as a daily mindset and approach to work and life where you intentionally tap into and activate inspiration, when needed, in the areas/goals that matter most to you. Inspiration combines feelings of possibility with invincibility; it is a heightened confidence and courage to take action – even amidst and in spite of disruption, change and turbulence. Our research also concluded that the ability to direct inspiration towards an outcome, goal or priority leads to better performance and results

That’s where the competencies of awareness, agility, and agency come in. In paying attention to and growing these core competencies, leaders can use inspiration to navigate through the uncertainty more effectively while balancing wellbeing and performance for themselves and their employees. 


The first of these core leadership competencies is Awareness. Not a new concept in leadership, but a truly essential one, awareness is the ability to reflect on one’s own strengths, weaknesses, energy and inspirational levels, and use that information to guide development planning and decision-making. Since leaders, teams and organizations must evolve over time to adapt to changing situations and environments, awareness needs to be an ongoing practice including self-reflection. Without awareness, leaders miss important data about themselves and those around them that can drive better decision-making, stronger connections and greater performance outcomes.


The next of our core leadership competencies is Agility, the ability to adapt and be resilient. Agile leaders more accurately assess situations and adjust presence, style, and approach as needed, in-the-moment, to achieve desired outcomes. In quickly changing environments like today’s, leaders who can quickly pivot their mindsets, emotions and strategies stand out as competitive, responsive to those around them, and relevant. 


The third of our core leadership competencies is Agency. We define Agency as choosing to take meaningful action, rather than feeling powerless or passive to make positive change. With so much outside of our control, the human brain can default to ruminating on problems and pain points, often resulting in individuals spending time and energy on negative, disempowering thoughts that prevent them from accessing the ideas and actions that will move them forward.  Strong leaders, in the face of challenge, stay focused on what they can control and influence to affect positive change. They refocus the people and resources around them through clear, calm and powerful forward action.


With so much at stake right now, leaders may feel compelled to take immediate action and essentially “perform” so as to show movement rather than hesitation. In driving relentlessly forward however, they may lose sight of the core, foundational and absolutely essential leadership competencies of awareness, agility and agency. 

Given today’s complex and uncertain environment, it is essential for leaders to simultaneously manage people and resources to drive performance while at the same time reimagine the future.  To do this and lead our organizations forward with thoughtful resilience and powerful action, we are going to need to have extraordinary core leadership strength.  How strong is your core?

If you enjoyed this article, here are two ways to stay connected:

  1.  Sign Up for our Inspired Insights –––a monthly newsletter that offers new research-based tips and tools about inspiring leadership and teaming. Sign up here.
  2.  Take our brief inspiration survey and, to learn more about how to crack your own inspiration code and inspire others, download our free resources and order the book Dare to Inspire.


Let's stay connected

Subscribe for email updates