Category Archives: Leadership
An article last week from Entrepreneur titled “Why ‘Messy’ Leaders Are The Future” outlines why traditional – and outmoded – leadership styles failed in 2020 and will not be effective going forward.
While the title is slightly out of context with the article content, they both convey a tectonic shift in leadership behaviors that will matter the most, and be most embraced, going forward. The change from traditional, uber-professional archetypes to a more adaptable, compassionate and non-conventional approach and persona has taken place.
The ability to direct an organization in any capacity or role used to be predicated on a leader’s drive, ability to mobilize a workforce, and obtain results. And if employees were along for the ride, so much the better. However, employees are having more of a voice in how their leadership needs to act and behave, and are avoiding those leaders who won’t change to their requests.
To elaborate on the article, let’s breakdown some conventional leadership norms that are being jettisoned for better leadership mindsets.
Managing Stress. Older leadership styles generally required employees to just get the job done at all costs. And those “all costs” meant “at no extra cost” by leaders who withheld pay, more staff, and needed resources to get the job done properly. And that is just the tip of the iceberg of outmoded “tough” leadership styles that created more stress, according to Dr. Geri Puleo. Great leaders in the last year knew that there was less resources anyway due to the pandemic, and worked to alleviate stress in spite of the involuntary limits of those resources.
Empathy. A global pandemic, social unrest and economic loss created an enormity of instability last year to which the recovery has just barely begun. Leaders who weren’t empathetic in the past, were defined more properly as unresponsive, in a classification done by Leadership Management Australia. More than ever before leaders are asked to truly listen to their employees, and not pay lip service. Acting by being emphatic is more than just listening with a bias. It means having a genuine concern for the well being of your people without prejudice or favoritism – or performance.
Mental Health. While the category of employee mental health is losing its stigma, meaning that it’s about mental well being, many old school leaders believe employees have to have a tough mindset always. Those that don’t portray that get managed out. The fact that leadership approaches to mental health are rising to the forefront is because they were never properly addressed in the past en masse. New leaders, and those willing to change their mindsets, are looking to be more attuned to how to foster a mentally healthy employee and culture; it’s currently the reason Chief Leaning Officer and a myriad of other leadership sources have prioritized this dilemma, as mental health concerns have doubled in the last year alone and continued to rise. Thankfully emerging leaders are making this a priority as well as noted mental health groups such as NAMI creating resources for leaders to be able to meet their people’s needs.
Compassion Over Properness. “We don’t talk about that here,” alluded to in the Entrepreneur article, simply means employees must conform to a business-only behavior modality. And most often, these leaders and out-of-touch cultures have stodgy dress codes, restrictions on personal time and work-life balance, and a code of conduct left over from a generation that may not have been inclusive. The older “one size fits all” style of employee compliance and leadership that managed that is not just outmoded, it’s just plain bad leadership, according to leadership expert Mike Myatt. Being a flexible leader means holding on to what really matters – people engagement and talent development – on not to the traditions that will always change every few years.
Processes More Than Results. The base article for this post talked about a hospital in Cincinnati that was able to pivot quickly during the pandemic and develop a new system, rather than the projected years initially pre-covid. This was due to concrete mindsets that wouldn’t allow flexibility -“that’s the way we’ve always done it”. While speed may have mattered in the past, agile matters most going forward. Even more important, as Tracy Brower states in her article, is being flexible in an agile organization. Success means more than just a results-based outcome – it’s the ever fluid ability to change and roll with the tides of the market.
Being Human, Being Vulnerable. Many old-school leaders had to have all the answers. Their pride would never allow themselves to admit not knowing the answers. And many times, they manipulated their way to be knowledge gatekeepers of the organization. But the best of leaders that emerged and positioned themselves last year for future success allowed their pride to be set aside, and be vulnerable to their staff. This bridging of relatability allowed their people to rally around them, and not merely march forward blindly in uncertain terrain just to make the numbers work. They admitted the crises of last year had an effect on them as well, but were willing to work together to come up with solutions rather than to tell their people how to manage the shifts.
The change is here. The old guard will not get it done anymore. Great leaders will be willing to pivot, and internally (not externally) adopt these changes as their own and necessary. And even the most recognized experts are teaching others the new leadership change. It’s why Boston Consulting Group closed their article at the onset of the pandemic with the imperative to all leaders to have “Leadership with Head, Heart and Hands”. A premise they continue to promote currently in change management because a new era of leadership is being called forth.
In the battle for talent, many leaders look externally for getting talent that aligns with the goals (at the least) and the culture (at best).
Unfortunately, according to employee surveys, many leave because leadership has failed to recognize the talent they possess and opt to take their skills elsewhere where they are appreciated.
In fact, a study from 15Five shows that of the top ten reasons employees leave, seven are attributable to poor leadership that hampers development and recognition of an employees efforts and talent.
Among those factors, the reasons that talent doesn’t develop is that leaders get in the way more than anything else. Here are the common reasons a leader may be hindering their peoples’ ability to develop:
Micromanagement. Whether from the basis of perfectionism or not knowing how to properly develop people to the next level of performance, micromanaging always create diminishing returns among employees. They start to spend more time covering their tracks than actually developing and excelling at their jobs. A visionary leader will allow their people room to showcase their talents rather than box them in to dot the “i’s” and cross the “t’s”.
Unrealistic Workload. Expecting your people to do more with less, whether due to budget cuts or an old-school leadership mindset that the best employees persevere at all costs, employees will struggle to get the basic core job done and not be refreshed or energized to innovate to develop. Allowing some pressure is good, piling it on to “bring out the best” in people ultimately leads to a negative ROI as employees will opt for a more balanced work environment.
Lack of Recognition. Even with the best efforts, failure to recognize on a nominal and consistent basis will ultimate lead to a departure of talent from your organization. Regardless of “that’s what you pay them for”, the consistent public, and private, appreciation of your team can inspire them to show off their talents at another level. Knowing and acting on this very basic human need can go an incredibly long way to develop your people and create a desire to please their boss.
Withholding Time & Resources. The discrepancy of training budgets between executive leaders and front line employees is quite large. More funds are spent on leadership workshops, retreats and conferences while the front line staff are tasked with making the widgets or sales without a break to develop their careers. Think about how talent could develop in your organization if a year’s worth (or more) of the training budget went to front line staff and not to leadership; the results could be transformational. Kevin Eikenberry alludes to this when he wrote that “Leadership Development is Self-Development” as many leaders can continue to grow those skills on their own without formal training and the resources that are tied up as a result. A great leader spends the needed resources, and time, to ensure their people grow.
Tolerating Toxic Culture. Poor culture that allows favoritism, bullying, broken promises and hypocrisy is a sure way to create an exodus of talent from your organization. In an era where employees have more leverage to move and leave a toxic culture and boss behind, it becomes an imperative mission to correct culture if your are to attract and retain talent. By removing the culture barriers that repel employees, an astute leader will gut their culture to ensure it aligns with those behaviors that attract talent that is already incumbent to the company. One bad apple is not worth keeping if it spoils the bunch, no matter how high level that person is, or how good a performer they are.
Think Inclusively. If your organization and leadership fails to consider the inherit worth of women, people of color and varying cultural, educational and economic backgrounds, chances are their skills will seek a more inclusive workplace that give them a chance to showcase their abilities. Adding to that are people who have dissenting opinions, beliefs and philosophies that may not fit into traditional, outdated modes of thinking. An inclusive-minded leader – in practice, not in theory – knows they have an incredible amount of talent in those groups that need a voice and stage to shine. Allowing them to be part of the change and mission can be perhaps the most gratifying talent initiative you’ll ever undertake.
As Julie Winkle Giulioni explained in a post for SmartBrief, leaders often err by commission of missteps, omission to do the right thing, and “whoa-mission” of holding back on the reins too tightly.
Great leaders and talent developers, will simultaneously remove those things that hinder talent, implement those that develop it, and let go of their staff to allow them to do what they know needs to be done. The results, both in metrics and in development, just might astonish you.
Many leaders say they want leaders to work for them.
They want people to step up to take their direction.
They want people to work extra hard and extra long hours becuase that’s how they got to the top.
They want people who can just buck up, suck up, and focus on what they should be doing, and not what the leader says or does.
Many leaders say they want leaders, but in reality all they want is followers.
People who do whatever they say without question or input.
People who can stay in their lane and not speak of “what they don’t know.”
People who just focus on their work, get it done no matter what the sacrifice, and make results happen.
These leaders simply want followers, not leaders.
Great leaders make great leaders, not followers.
Great leaders and great employees know the difference and align themselves accordingly.
(Image by Brigitte make custom works from your photos, thanks a lot from Pixabay)