eadership is so much different today than when I first started leading over 30 years ago. To lead today we must learn to think outside the once considered normal lines of leadership.
Much has been written about the informal aspects of leadership being as important as the formal aspects of leadership. In addition to a set of systems and structures, for a leader to be successful today, leaders must engage a team. We must build team spirit. Energize. Motivate. Engage. Even sympathize. Those have always been important, but these days they may trump some of our policies and procedures.
In informal leadership environments, the way a leader leads is often more important than the knowledge or management abilities of the leader. Again, that may have always been important, but now it is critical.
Here are five examples of how a successful leader must lead in today’s environment:
1. Adapting leadership to followers' individual needs and expectations.
No more cookie-cutter leadership is allowed. Leaders must be wiling to individualize their leadership based on the current setting, economy and individualism of team members. We must know our teams uniquely and lead according to a person’s individual strengths and abilities.
2. Raising new leaders.
Those on the team with the propensity or desire to lead must be given opportunity to help lead the organization. That’s not an option. Not only is this good for the organization by creating future leaders, it is key to keeping the best people on the team.
3. Balancing kindness or friendship with authority.
John Maxwell’s axiom “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care” has never been more true. People follow leaders they can trust. They follow leaders who believe in them and will invest in them. While leaders sometimes must make difficult and unpopular decisions, authoritarian leadership is not well received by today’s workforce.
4. Giving others ownership in the vision.
People want and need to be stockholders—knowing they are making a difference with their work. To do that means they must have ownership in the vision and decision-making. Allowing a team to help shape the agenda helps assure their heart buys into completing the mission of the organization.
5. Creating for the greater good.
Great leaders think beyond themselves. Even beyond their own team or the vision, goals and objectives of the organization. Today’s leaders must understand they play a part in a more global sense. We are much more connected these days through social media and online instant connections. The way an organization treats it’s employees, the environment and customers is considered important—and if it’s not done well—the world will know about it quickly.
Finding the right balance between a formal style of leadership where everything is clearly spelled out for people to follow and an informal style where a team helps to shape the course of action is critical to an organization’s success. In many ways, after 30 plus years of leadership, I’m from an “old school.” I’m still learning—and re-learning.
But I know this. Leaders today must continually strive to find that balance.