If Covid has shown us anything, it’s that every business needs to constantly look to the future and innovate. But you cannot innovate without challenging the status quo.

Which starts with your leadership.

I believe there’s a spectrum of leadership attitudes. At one end are leaders who are mired in the status quo. “We’ve always done it this way. It works, so why should we change?”

At the other are innovative thinkers like Bridgewater Associates (one of the world’s most successful hedge funds) founder, Ray Dalio who believes, “The greatest tragedy of mankind comes from the inability of people to have thoughtful disagreement to find out what’s true.”

Which comes back to your leadership.

Are you open to being challenged? Being criticised for your decision? Can you handle being told you’re the emperor with no clothes? Or do you shoot the messenger? Get rid of anyone who disagrees with your opinions.

Frankly, the latter will slowly, but inexorably lead to your demise as an organisation.

Back to Ray Dalio. EVERY meeting at Bridgewater is recorded – and ANYONE in the organisation can review them with a view to a) knowing what’s going on and b) being able to question and criticize decisions.

This is an extract from “Originals – How Non-Conformists Change The World” by Adam Grant which demonstrates Bridgewater’s culture.

Here’s an email that Jim, a client adviser, sent to Dalio after a meeting with an important potential client:

“Ray—you deserve a ‘D-‘ for your performance today … you rambled for 50 minutes … It was obvious to all of us that you did not prepare at all because there is no way you could have and been that disorganized at the outset if you had prepared. We told you this prospect has been identified as a “must-win” … today was really bad … we can’t let this happen again.

At a typical company, sending an email this critical of a boss would be career suicide. But instead of reacting defensively, Dalio responded by asking others who attended the meeting to give him honest feedback and grade him on a scale from A to F.

Then, instead of hiding Dalio’s shortcomings or attacking the author of the note, Bridgewater’s co-CEO copied the email trail to the entire company so that everyone could learn from the exchange.”

What could we all learn about leadership from this?

This is very much a case of leaving your ego outside the room.

How will you foster this type of culture in your organisation?

Which comes back to one of my mantras. You have to have the courage and confidence in both you and your people to implement this.

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