The mining and minerals sector is at the crossroads of formidable challenges, from labor shortages to the imperatives of digitization and decarbonization. Amidst these complexities, the need for effective leadership within the industry is more critical than ever. But what skills and characteristics will leaders need to develop if they’re to navigate the sector’s challenges successfully?
A key quality distinguishing a successful leader in the mining sector is resilience. Acute labor shortages, intensified by global events such as the Covid-19 pandemic, demand leaders who can navigate disruptions and inspire confidence in their teams. Resilient leaders recognize the transient nature of challenges and formulate adaptive strategies to ensure the sustained operation of mining activities. This doesn’t mean that all leaders need to be tough, but it does indicate the mental strength of resolve and self-belief to get through tough times.
Flexibility and adaptability:
The dynamic nature of the mining industry requires leaders who are not wedded to conventional approaches. A good leader must possess flexibility and adaptability, vocally encouraging and readily embracing change and innovation, from wherever it comes. The speed of change isn’t going to slow any time soon, so leaders need not only to be open to and accommodate new ideas but also be prepared to translate innovation into swift action by overcoming the barriers to implementation. The more rapidly that new ideas and ways of working can be put to work the sooner mining companies can capitalize on the benefits.
Strategic vision for digital transformation:
As the mining sector undergoes a digital transformation, leaders must have an unerring eye on the strategic vision for incorporating technology into every facet of operations. Digital literacy and an understanding of emerging technologies are crucial qualities. A good leader should not only champion the adoption of digital and analytics solutions but also foster a learning culture in which people feel they can develop their digital skills and have room to grow. This requires a willingness to invest in learning and a commitment to staying ahead of industry trends and developing the pathways for exciting careers within the sector.
Proactive talent development:
In this post-pandemic world, the expectations of the workforce have changed as many have reprioritized their values. Today’s leaders need a better grasp on what people want from their jobs and learn how to tap into the enormous potential that they have to offer. The practice of good management hasn’t really advanced in the last 100 years – newly appointed managers are typically left to cultivate their own leadership and management personas. Yet evidence shows that line managers have more impact on the well-being of team members than their spouses, priests or even their therapists! Research by Gallup backs this up with the highest reported levels of intention to quit (50% in the next 12 months) attributed to poor management.
Mining companies need urgently to invest in developing leaders’ capabilities so that they have the modern skills they need to help them extract the greatest amount of talent from their teams.
A new management practice that leaders in over 40 countries are learning is helping them to adopt coaching-related behaviors into their everyday management style. By learning to tune in to the different situations they encounter each day, they learn when and how to favor using more of an enquiry-led approach by asking more powerful questions that provoke deeper reflection from team members. By utilizing this Operational Coaching® style of management, leaders develop more of a coaching mindset that helps them to tap into the talents of their team members, whilst at the same time preventing themselves from stepping in to solve every problem they’re presented with. In this way, team members retain accountability for solving more of the day-to-day problems which increases their confidence and resourcefulness.
With practice, leaders learn to modulate their style quickly, looking for opportunities to engage their team more effectively and enabling them to step up, which increases both their capacity and capabilities as a whole.
The mining and minerals sector is facing challenges and leaders with the vision and understanding to implement advances in technology will help shape the sector. The greater imperative, though, is for them to develop the people-engagement skills to be able to draw on the vast reserves of potential within their teams. By developing an enabling style of leadership that invites the highest levels of contribution from their team, leaders can navigate challenges, foster innovation, and position their organizations for long-term success in a rapidly changing environment.
Dominic Ashley-Timms and Laura Ashley-Timms are the CEO and COO of performance consultancy Notion. They are the co-creators of the multi-award-winning STAR® Manager online development program being adopted by managers in 40 countries and are also the co-authors of new management bestseller The Answer is a Question.