Glen Jackson, cofounder of Jackson Spalding, can attest to navigating changes as the business landscape evolves. Rooted in the agency’s mantra to “look for a better way,” Glen and agency leaders continuously look for new approaches to internal communications, team building and culture development that foster positive changes in the organization and the employee experience.
In recent years, this renewed focus on evolution has contributed to a significant period of growth for Jackson Spalding. Glen recently met with Brandon Smith, host of the Leadership Foundry Podcast, to discuss obstacles he has faced and how to overcome five specific challenges en route to becoming a modern leader.
No one could have predicted the pandemic of 2020 and the changes it would have on how businesses operate. In a post-pandemic work environment, we have seen an influx of hybrid work schedules and in some cases, fully remote workers.
Office traditions and norms have become practices of the past as employees have realized they can be effective and stay “connected” no matter where they work. This has led to significantly fewer in-person interactions and team outings, and it has threatened the ability to craft and protect a beloved culture in the workplace.
Glen suggests countering this by being present and acknowledging, rather than dismissing or fighting, these shifts. “Our purpose is to cultivate meaningful relationships rooted in mutual respect. Cultivating relationships takes effort, time and proximity. Investing in one another means spending face time with one another. It’s irreplaceable. It may not be daily, but it’s purposeful,” he says.
Becoming a better communicator internally is just as important as improving how you market to external audiences. Communication is key, but doing it effectively is not second nature. Just as you would want your product effectively conveyed to your consumers, it is critical to maintain that standard across departments, leadership and employees.
Strong, clear and consistent messages backed by research and insights should be the foundation for your communications strategy. Announcements, best practices and ideas should be shared widely and easily adopted by your entire team.
As a leader, it is imperative that you are seen. Glen stresses the importance of leaders being seen by their clients, team members and even their communities. When you go outside your business, you’ll begin to see opportunities inside your business. “Outside equals inside,” Glen says.
But it’s not enough just to be seen. In addition to increasing visibility, Glen believes there are attributes that leaders must embrace if they wish to adapt to modern industry. Truly modern leaders with staying power are real, relatable and humble.
Starting and staying in business requires a lot of stamina, resilience and buoyancy. There are days you’ll be down and have to pop back up and encourage others when you could use the personal encouragement. It’s not about the series of events that leads to a bad week, but rather how you respond to them.
“Success is sweaty, not sexy,” Glen says. Even though the work is hard, Glen insists that you can always have fun along the way.
The final challenge of the modern leader is learning to be authentic. Glen emphasizes the importance of being real and relatable as a modern leader. Part of this journey is leading with vulnerability, and that is hard for some leaders. They may feel as though they look weak or incapable, as they are expected to demonstrate strength.
“Once you share that vulnerability, what you’ll realize is that it actually makes you stronger,” Glen says. When you can be open and honest with the people you’re leading, it makes you more human. Modern leaders need to be human experts as much as strategy experts.
In addition to discussing how to face these five challenges, Glen and Brandon cover a trove of other timely topics and advice for aspiring modern leaders. Learn how to stay motivated, hack your leadership style, find courage and much more—watch or listen here to Glen’s full episode of the Leadership Foundry Podcast.