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What No One Told You About Leadership, But What You Need To Know

Once upon a time, in the dim and distant past, being a leader was a simple task. It was all about who could shout the loudest and who complained the most; add these together with some quickfire orders and things would get done. They might not get done well or to a particularly high standard, and they might not get done by employees who enjoyed the process or were happy in their work, but they would get done all the same.

When you were this kind of leader, you would expect a lot from your employees and not give them a huge amount in return. Why should you? You’re the leader. When you’re this kind of leader you can fire people at will and hire more easily because there will always be someone out there who can do what you need them to do at the price you want to pay them and who will be grateful for the work.

You could have your pick and whether or not the employee was happy or had a good work life balance wasn’t any of your concern.

And that was about it.

Being a leader, as we’ve said, wasn’t hard.

But then things changed and leadership changed with it. This was not a bad thing; in fact, it was a much needed re-energization of the business world, but it left a lot of old style leaders behind, and caused businesses to start to crumble which was not the intention at all. The good news is, everyone is capable of change and everyone is capable of being a good leader. That’s not to say that everyone wants to lead or feels comfortable when the do it, but the potential is certainly there.

The Modern World

The reason the changes happened were thanks in part to technology. Technology made it possible for people to work from home, gaining employment in different areas, cities, states, even countries without having to travel.

Employers could have their pick of the very best candidates, and candidates suddenly had a whole wide world (depending on visa requirements and other tax implications, of course) to work in. So desperation became much less. Now, if a ‘leader’ was all shouting orders and nothing else, what did it matter? The employee became the one with all the power, and they could choose to walk away whenever they wanted, feeling fairly certain that they could find work elsewhere.

Plus, there is a mental health issue to think about. Mental health has always been something that needed to be taken seriously, but in modern times it is something that has been brought to the fore. It is something we know needs to be taken seriously.

Employers need to take this into account. Shouting at someone, telling people they have to do this, that, or the other without any reasoning behind it, is not good for anyone’s mental health. Neither is expecting too much without giving anything (understanding, training, compassion, a comfortable workplace) in return.

Adapting

For some, it will always be hard to adapt. Being a leader is what they might have done ever since they left college, and they have done it the same way every time they needed to get something done. Yet here we are, with new, bright, young stars rising through the ranks who have a completely different way of seeing the world. It’s a clearer, kinder, altogether more collaborative view, and it’s a great one — it gets stuff done without the added worry of complaints and all out strikes, for example.

Yet when these bright sparks become leaders, what of the workforce under them? For those of the same generation (give or take) it won’t be a problem. A new, gentler kind of leadership will be a sweet relief, or to be expected. Those from older generations, however, might have trouble. Those in their 50s or older who are used to a tough leadership style might flail and become uncertain as to their role in this brave new world.

They needn’t worry, of course. If they want to be told what to do at all times this can surely be arranged — managers who crave a little power can take on this mantle. But overall, this bullish leadership style is on the way out, and may already be a thing of the past.

What To Look For In A New Kind Of Leader

If you want to be one of this new guard of positive leaders, or you’re looking to work for one, there are some elements to look out for that will help you work out what you are or what you want.

Leading by example

A modern leader won’t just sit behind a desk and tell people what to do; they will get their hands dirty along with everyone else. They will help out where needed. They will also always have the company’s ethos at heart and work on that basis. They are people whose example you want to follow.

Accessible leadership

A closed door? That’s not something you’ll see in a modern workspace. A new leader will have an open door policy and be accessible to anyone and everyone who needs a little guidance. They will not be intimidating, and they will not hide away from their employees.

A good listener

It almost goes without saying that a good leader needs to be a good listener. They may not always act on what they hear and what is said to them, but the act of listening is one that will put employees at ease.

Careful thinker

No rash decision will ever be made by a good modern day leader. They will act decisively, of course, that’s part of their job, but they won’t jump to conclusions and they won’t act without thinking.

Empowering others

For the modern leader their role is not about gaining power. It’s not about being the top dog. It’s about empowering others, showing their workers what they are capable of, and bringing out the best in people.

They plan ahead

A good leader is someone who has a plan and not only sticks to it but also shares it with the workforce so that everyone understands which direction the business is going in and how they can be a part of the journey. Of course, a good leader will also be able to change their plans if they see that something isn’t working or if anything important changes.

Credit where it’s due

A good leader will give credit where it’s due. They will praise employees and not take the praise for themselves. They might even offer rewards. In other words, a good leader will turn their workers into heroes.

Carl is a business psychologist and leadership development expert who focuses on the development of high performance leaders. www.leadershipconsulting.com

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