The Changing Face of Leadership
The nature of leadership and the manner in which leaders lead have shifted considerably over the last few years. Because of the worldwide recession’s impact on the global economy, leaders have had to adjust their approach to leadership. During the boom days, the nature of leadership mainly was centered on driving sales, business development, increased marketing, and general demands to capitalize on the growing economy. During this time, many leaders’ intrinsic skills were focused around pure motivation and, in some cases, a ruthless desire to increase sales year on year. Many leaders in this era were extremely authoritarian, and if a salesperson’s numbers were down one month, he or she easily could be shown the door.
During the recession, many of these leaders struggled with continuing to utilize this approach to leadership. But the “cracking the whip” approach did not work as trade flows simply stopped and people were not buying or selling, regardless of industry or sector.
Enter the New Age of Leaders
The leaders of today have more strings on their bows than those of pre-recession days. In addition to driving sales, leaders today need to pay closer attention to the sometimes forgotten element of business and leadership. They must look at employees not just in terms of digit growth but other traits they possess both technically and behaviorally that allow them to assist the business in others ways. For example, a leading salesperson with vast experience in his marketplace and the right connections could be of huge benefit in working with the senior leadership team on adjusting the organization’s strategy, working with HR to help adjust the roles of others on his team, or simply spending more time motivating and counselling his team instead of solely focusing on business development.
During the recession, leaders also had to look at other areas such as finance, risk management, compliance, governance, and other “control functions.” They had to adapt quickly and be masters of finance, risk, operations, legal, etc. They had to think outside of the box; they had to show human instincts of survival and consolidation; and they had to out- think their competitors based on aspects beyond sales. The successful leaders of today are the ones who react to market conditions and motivate their teams to react. They are able to help drive through this change. When employees are resistant to change, leaders must be able to not only motivate but connect with each and every employee on a human level and make them feel they are valued, cared for, and a vital part of the organization.
When employees feel the leadership of their organization is not in total control or has lost confidence in the organization’s future, then that negativity quickly can filter down the chain of command and cause serious breaches in the organization’s ability to navigate choppy waters.
It does not matter what type of leader your organization has—whether authoritarian, paternalistic, democratic, laissez-fair, or transactional. Simply put, they must be able to connect on a human level; they must communicate clear, consistent messages to their team; and most importantly, they realize that each person is different, operates in his or her own way, at his or her own speed, and within his or her own belief system. As long as leaders show empathy while displaying whatever leadership style they possess, the motivation to succeed and believe in the company’s goals will follow.
What Makes the Truly Great Leader?
In summary, the world economy has changed, governments have changed, and the overall fabric of society is changing and evolving like it always has. If leaders do not change with it, problems will lie ahead. What makes the truly great leader? Someone who recognizes all of the above but sees this change coming ahead of others and changes before them.
Leadership is not something that can be easily taught. It does require some intrinsic skills that already are embedded in many people. No leader will make the right choice 100 percent of the time, but a strong leader is someone who makes these mistakes, accepts them, and moves on quickly. Stubbornly refusing to accept they made a mistake is one of the key downfalls for a number of leaders.
Mohammed Al-khalifa is the Global HR manager at Casewise, a provider of software solutions and professional services for business process management and enterprise architecture. For more information, visit www.casewise.com.