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Steering through change: A guide to leading with empathy and accountability


In the dynamic landscape of modern organisations, change has become the constant norm, and uncertainty prevails as the new normal.

In this environment, the role of leaders has evolved into guiding their teams through the storm of transformations. However, the art of effectively leading people through change is a skill often overlooked in the fast-paced business world. 

Addressing this gap, communications and soft skills specialist Leah Mether offers a beacon of guidance in her new book, “Steer through the Storm.” With over 15 years of experience working across diverse industries, Mether presents a fresh approach to leadership and communication that aids leaders in navigating the turbulence of change. 

Leah Mether is recognised for her impactful work as a speaker, trainer, facilitator and author. Drawing from her background in leadership, corporate communications and journalism, she empowers executives, leaders and teams throughout Australia to enhance their communication and self-management skills.

Through her engaging and relatable style, Mether has collaborated with a range of organisations, including AGL, Optus, CFA, Energy Australia and more. Her latest endeavour, “Steer through the Storm,” is a testament to her commitment to supporting leaders through industry transitions. 

Unveiling the essence of “Steer through the Storm”

“Steer through the Storm” is a compass for leaders worldwide who find themselves guiding their teams through the tempest of uncertainty and change. 

In the midst of industry transitions, corporate restructuring, post-COVID adaptations, or technological advancements, Mether provides a practical, step-by-step guide to navigating these challenges. Addressing leaders across hierarchies and industries, the book emphasises that irrespective of the origin of change, people-focused leadership is paramount for guiding teams to emerge stronger from the tumult. 

As Mether said, “I was motivated to write the book because the rate and pace of change appears to be accelerating at a global scale, yet many leaders are ill-equipped to lead their people through it.”

“My aim is to help teach leaders how to steer their people through with a mix of empathy and accountability.”

Leading through the storm with empathy

In a world marked by challenges like the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change and technological breakthroughs, uncertainty has become the norm. 

Organisations grapple with unprecedented changes, adapting on the fly as they navigate the storm. Herein lies the essence of people-focused leadership. Leading through uncertainty mandates addressing the emotions of the team, as emotions underlie human behaviour, choices, decisions and performance. 

Neglecting the feelings and apprehensions of the team can give rise to conflicts, stress, and disengagement, leading to significant productivity losses. 

“Because of challenges like the COVID pandemic, climate change and AI technology advances, the rate of uncertainty and pace of change has accelerated worldwide, with many organisations making up their responses on the fly and doing their best to adapt without all the information at hand,” Mether said.

“The cost of ignoring your employees’ emotions can be significant in terms of time, money, and productivity.”

The balancing act: Empathy and accountability in leadership

Juggling empathy and accountability presents a delicate balance for leaders during change. Mether underscores the importance of placing empathy before accountability and building trust through connections. 

A supportive environment encourages teams to embrace accountability once they feel understood and supported. Effective leadership demands transparent communication of shared expectations for performance and behaviour during change. Candid conversations early on are crucial, as they set the stage for accountability while recognising the human element in each individual. 

“Balancing empathy and accountability, or warmth and strength, is vital when leading people through change, and so is getting the order right: Empathy first, accountability second.” 

“The best way to do that is to first make your expectations clear.” 

“Once you have your shared expectations, hold people to account for upholding them by having conversations early and remembering to stay hard on the issue, soft on the person.”

Clear communication in times of change: The power of transparency

Amidst heightened emotions, providing clarity becomes imperative.

As Brené Brown aptly states, “clear is kind.” Even if the message isn’t well-received, clarity fosters understanding and, in turn, alignment. In an environment devoid of information, rumours and mistrust flourish. 

Mether advocates for unvarnished truths over spin or clever messaging. Simplistic, authentic, and transparent communication resonates more powerfully, addressing motivations and driving factors unique to each audience. Proactive transparency, without waiting for queries, instils trust and shapes perceptions. 

“When emotions are running high, providing clarity is paramount,” Mether said. 

“Avoid spin and clever messaging that attempts to disguise harsh realities with false promises.” 

“Transparency goes beyond honesty; it means sharing the truth that you believe needs to be known without being asked because it’s the right thing to do.” 

As leaders face uncharted waters of constant change, “Steer through the Storm” emerges as a guiding light, equipping them with the tools to lead with empathy, clarity, and accountability. In a world that craves adaptable and empathetic leadership, Leah Mether’s insights provide a blueprint for steering teams toward success, even amid the most turbulent times.

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