The world has changed. As new demands from both the market and employees come to the fore, traditional management styles are being overtaken by a new leadership mindset. This new style of management is responsive and requires leaders to understand how – and when – to use different leadership styles.
Over the past 15 years, we learned that in a world that keeps changing in unprecedented ways, designing for change is a key skill in leadership and it’s something modern companies should have been planning and executing in their tactical and practical activities. Here, the traditional best practice leadership style fell short in the turmoil of the disruptive, modern business world. Something new was needed!
The rise of new practice leadership
Leadership programmes would be easy to design if leadership were a single, defined skillset or competency, that could be applied in all circumstances and situations. However, leadership is a multi-faceted skill and the style of leadership that will work best varies depending on the organization, the environment, and the marketplace.
Apart from anything else the command and control culture, once prominent in the workplace, has been replaced by models which are predicated on collaborative and participative approaches. We see effective leaders as those who encourage staff engagement by allowing autonomy within a framework of values and goals focussed on meeting strategic objectives. These leaders manage and improve performance rather than just reporting it – a “cultivate and grow” approach rather than management by carrot and stick.
So as times change, we need leaders who can change too, we need leaders who embrace continuous learning, who develop and adjust their behavior and working style as appropriate. Modern leaders need to be all-around players, they need to know that technology is here to help them speed up every process they have to manage: from onboarding new employees to sharing information among them. Modern leaders should embrace change and exploit new possibilities!
Here, new practice leadership understands the developments in technology and society and exploits the possibilities. This leadership style focuses on dreams as well as strategic goals, and on networks as well as hierarchies, and on experimentation as well as planning. It is a leadership approach that is based on people and engagement, both with customers, shareholders, society, and employees.
This new style of leadership is responsive and fuses both traditional and modern methods. Going too far in either of the two opposable directions is fatal for your leadership and for the organization. This kind of leadership is about juggling two apparently opposing elements, such as hierarchy and networks. The truth is, new practice leadership is exactly the understanding of how to juggle these, and how to balance and apply those two leadership styles.
Design principles for the future of leadership
From our experience of working with top and middle managers of many F500 companies in the past five years, helping them transform their internal communications strategies to stay ahead of the competition, we understood that there are always five design principles that permeate the mindset of these modern leaders. And that there’s a trait d’union that connects every one of them: they are people oriented! In fact:
- They focus on their purpose and ensure that they make work meaningful for all employees.
- They encourage innovation and experimentation.
- They are driven by results.
- They distribute their leadership powers to those who have the will, skill, ability and desire to lead.
- This forms a whole new and modern leadership mindset, one that is the fabric of an organization that can stay relevant in the modern world. These organizations are agile, adaptable and focused on responding to change rather than following a plan.
The modern leader is one who understands the dynamics of the organizational development and is capable of decoding it and responding accordingly. This new style of leadership is responsive and fuses both traditional and modern methods. Going too far in either of the two opposable directions is fatal for your leadership and for the organization. In the end, this leads to a lack of buy-in from your employees.
Here, we have some advice for you: start studying your organization’s dynamics, and the balances you are trying to juggle. You need to understand when to be hierarchical and when to work in networks, and when to be planning versus experimenting! It’s also important to know when to decide yourself versus when to delegate to others, and when to focus on purpose versus profit.
Only through the deliberate and meticulous study of your leadership behavior, you can start mastering the dynamic mix that is needed in the future!