We often ask the question of our clients: “What’s success for you?”

The range of responses can vary widely.  It may be the achievement of a measurable target within a specific period of time (market share, bonus payment, sales revenue, being promoted) or something less tangible (employee happiness, sense of trust, the feeling of being more in control).

In today’s rapidly evolving landscape, the concept of success for leaders has taken on a new dimension. As we navigate through unprecedented challenges and embrace the opportunities of a digital age, the traditional definitions of success no longer seem sufficient. For modern leaders, success goes beyond mere profits and personal achievements; it encompasses a holistic approach that takes into account societal impact, adaptability, and sustainable growth.

The point of the question about the meaning of success is to encourage reflection.  It’s not the easiest one to answer and it can be surprising that the definition that evolves after some thought is not the one we start out with.  Conventional concepts of success and failure can be limiting.  Success may be short-lived and not provide ongoing satisfaction.  Failure may in hindsight bring greater rewards through the opportunity for learning and growth. The willingness to iterate, adapt, and improve based on lessons learned is a hallmark of successful leadership in the current context.

The definition of “success” is necessary in all kinds of situations. 
What does success look like for each stakeholder and what’s important about how success is achieved?
Success now involves aligning business goals with a larger purpose that addresses social and environmental issues. This shift towards responsible and ethical leadership reflects a growing awareness of the interconnectedness of our global society. It emphasizes collaboration and empowerment. Successful leaders recognize the value of diverse perspectives and inclusive decision-making. They build teams that represent a variety of backgrounds, skills, and experiences, thereby fostering innovation and creativity. Success is no longer a solo journey; it’s a collaborative effort that uplifts the entire team and harnesses collective intelligence.

The most effective leaders in 2023 will be those who help their teams rediscover what’s inspiring and motivating about the work they do.  That may entail reconnecting employees with the values and mission that drew them to the enterprise, making these real and visible.  It may require enlarging opportunities for personal growth throughout the business. It will surely demand openness to new ways of working, thinking and collaborating that signal, ‘this is a place where I make a difference.’

Jack Huston, AIIR NYC

In a feedback session after delivering a development programme to a new client they asked us what success looked like for participants we’d worked with.  Part of the success of our programmes lies in creating the environment for self-discovery leading to desired and sustainable change (underpinned by tools, support and challenge from fellow participants).  Our training design is modular to give participants the opportunity to apply learning between sessions.  They have ample time to reflect on in-session learning and connect the dots between their values, vision and purpose and how this can be lived in their workplace.

We asked our participants about the programme they had recently completed.  What were the benefits for them as a result of their self-development work over the last six months?

Here are some of their replies:

  • increased self-compassion and self-belief
  • eased stress and greater enjoyment
  • learning what energises and depletes, bringing awareness of how to refresh and renew
  • less tendency towards irritation and more peace
  • enabled courageous and transformational conversations
  • given more strategies to deal with difficult situations
  • helped change dynamics between peoples and groups and family
  • provided the confidence to tackle the big “issues” by understanding what is at their root
  • brought insights into what motivates and inspires people
  • highlighted strengths and what is really important
  • given the capacity to take a helicopter view

Success, in essence, is the harmonious blend of personal and collective growth, where leaders inspire not only through their accomplishments but also through the positive change they bring to the world.

And you may ask, what does success look like for us as programme designers, coaches and facilitators?
Quite simply, seeing and hearing the comments above from our participants and feeling our work makes a difference.

In our book “Leadership through Covid-19 and Beyond” we talk about new models of leadership. What we need now, more than ever are leaders who are agile, adaptable, humble, authentic and care about people.