Organisations are evolving. This necessitates a reformulation of all facets of our offices to ensure that we remain modern. We would never think to utilise an outdated technology; this would stop us from maximising our potential. The same logic should apply to leadership styles. Unless executives carve out a new leadership personality to reflect these changing times, they – and their organisations – will be left behind.
Globalisation. Expansion. Growth. Interconnectedness.
Never has everyone around the world been this close. Communication that took weeks now takes seconds. It’s something, 100 years ago, we could not have predicted, yet now it’s impossible to imagine the world without it.
Naturally, such a dramatic evolution has forced us to update our workplaces and offices. Our technologies have become more modern and sophisticated. Our goals and our focuses have been broadened.
If, at your next meeting, you were to announce confidently that you thought the organisation should reformulate its business strategy to match the successful one of 2005, you would be laughed out of the building. Times have changed. The organisations that survive are the ones that look forward, not backward.
It is quite bizarre that leadership styles are treated differently. For some reason, many executives think, even though the world has gone through radical upheaval, they can possess the exact same mindsets that they had 15 years ago.
The reality is that when times change, people must follow. If you don’t, you risk being
left in the past.
According to Michael Lurie from McKinsey and Co, the traditional role of a leader was to maximise value for shareholders. Their duties included planning, directing and controlling in order to achieve this all-important goal. While this is undoubtedly still a major concern for executives today, their role is far broader than it was in the past.
The main factor which distinguishes modern organisations from those in the past is complexity. No job is simple anymore. This complexity can be particularly unsettling for employees who feel as if they are not coping in such a high intensity workplace. Lurie argues, therefore, that 21st century leaders must always keep their employees in mind when it comes to performing the jobs within an organisation. In essence, executives should provide a support network for employees who might not be coping with what has become highly complicated and intense work.
Recently, Gallup conducted a series of surveys. They found that the odds of employees becoming engaged increased by 13% when they could rely on a supportive leader for assistance. What this means is that leaders can alleviate some of the insecurity that comes from working in a complicated, fast-moving organisation by displaying traits that help employees feel settled and appreciated. When employees feel more secure, their performance will improve drastically.
Feehan, Lavoie and Taylor from McKinsey and Co give executives 3 leadership tips to help engage their employees in the modern workplace.
1. Create space for reflection and feedback
If your employees feel capable of speaking up when things don’t feel right to them, you will increase trust and reduce alienation.
2. Develop an organisational vision to create alignment
Your employees will always feel more motivated and connected to their workplace when they are clear that their organisation has a role to play in the wider world. Oftentimes, disengagement stems from forgetting that your work amounts to something ‘more’.
3. Invite creative dialogue
Eliminate the notion of ‘mistake’. You want your employees to be imaginative – because with imagination comes progress. Ideally, you want your employees to be free-thinking, critical individuals who can all push your organisation forward.
I don’t blame leaders for being slow to alter their personalities in response to a changing business environment. Charisma is something that is natural – it seems wrong that we should have to change ourselves for others.
The reality is that subtle differences are needed to reflect the emerging intensity of organisations. Employees are vulnerable; executives must act as buffer between them and becoming disengaged.
There are so many forces at play in an organisation that can overwhelm a worker. Executives must be the torchbearer, guiding their workers towards understanding and motivation.
Now more than ever, we need our leaders to lead.