Long gone are the days when managers charged ahead and expected their employees to follow whatever they threw at them. Well, so you would think.
Surprisingly, there are still a large number of managers who believe in the competency of their leadership, while they simultaneously exhibit elements of control, doubt and fear, whenever they are dealing with their people. Max Weber would be proud.
"Just because you are in a leadership position doesn't make you a leader"
- Simon Sinek
The bad news for those managers is that the new workforce has decided they won’t tolerate this leadership ‘style’ any longer. This is especially true of the younger generation, who are waking up to the fact that their work needs to provide them with a sense of meaning and purpose, particularly if they are to consider staying at one organisation for longer than two years.
And that is where the new leaders are needed more than ever.
Yes, of course the typical traits of a leader still play a crucial role in driving team performance: you will still be required to articulate a vision, be authentic and be adaptive to an ever-changing business environment. Inspiring your people to follow you will forever remain a crucial part of effective leadership.
But when leading your people to a place where each team member can be motivated to perform at their very best, the modern leader is required to go further. They have to fully connect at an individual level, one conversation at a time.
Don't forget: when designing our professional career path, every single one of us is after meaning and purpose
So who are those new leaders?
They are present
Let's talk about presence. If your understanding of presence is showing up for people once every two weeks for a 1-2-1, where you discuss their workload, and then think you have served them powerfully, boy do I have news for you.
I am also not talking about physical presence in the wider sense of being always visible to them. I am talking about being fully immersed in what they share with you. Content yes, but more focused on body language and tone of voice. How are they truly showing up?
Are they saying those things just to please you or are they speaking from their heart? What are they actually saying? If you exhibit true presence with your people you may be surprised by the non-verbal messages they are sharing with you.
They are emotionally intelligent
Leaders who lack self-awareness struggle to understand how external circumstances can affect them. Worse, they are driven by their emotions, and are not able to separate feelings from reality in many situations. The result is that their self-regulation is limited, causing them to act insensitively when triggered.
You can see how this may affect their social awareness when dealing with their people. A leader that is caught up in their own world of emotion, operating purely from their own paradigm, will certainly not be fully present with their people, helping them navigate what they are dealing with at the time.
Emotionally intelligent leaders understand when stress, opposing opinions or simply having a bad day can impact their mood and energy levels. They are able to acknowledge when they are not on their ‘A’ game. And this in return allows them to be available and fully present when their people need them.
Of the few people that know what coaching actually is, most of those overestimate their ability to do a good job of it. After all, allowing your people to come up with their own solutions fundamentally goes against what old school management was all about.
Even today, leaders still struggle to completely trust that their people can find the answers themselves.
Or perhaps they even enjoy the feeling of dependency – when people come to them for advice or support. Telling them what to do is faster than having to actually sit down with them to help them work out the best way forward, right? Actually, that is incorrect: a leader that adopts a coaching leadership style saves time, resources and energy in the long run.
And what happens to your people when you give them your complete trust to work things out without you interrupting them every ten seconds? They are empowered, motivated through ownership and are able to tap into their meaning and purpose for a change.
They are vulnerable
God, how easy it is to see right through someone that pretends to always have all the answers. You aren't serving anyone if you have to play the ‘big guy’ who constantly knows what to do next.
Even worse is when you provide unsolicited advice, your people take it and it goes wrong. Then who gets the blame?
The new leaders own up when they don't know what the best answer is. And when they are wrong with something they take responsibility, rather than playing the blame game.
After all, we are all learning new things all the time, and having that mindset allows you to share your weaknesses and vulnerabilities with others. Your people are going to thank you for it too.
So, how are you showing up for your people today?