Things sure ain’t like they used to be. People, workplaces and technology are evolving rapidly, and if you’re a leader or have your eye on a managerial role, it’s extra important to keep up.
“We have entered an era of unprecedented change, driven by shifting demographics and advancing technologies – a time in which the ability to skillfully lead a multi-generational workforce is paramount,” says Kylie Wright-Ford, a three-time entrepreneur, operating executive and co-author of The Leadership Mind Switch. “It makes our jobs more challenging, but also more exciting.”
To lead boldly into the future, you’ll need to update your mindset and approach. Here’s a few of the new golden rules for inspirational leadership.
Then: Command and control
Old-school leaders had the authority thing down pat. They liked saying ‘jump’ and hearing ‘how high?’ “This wasn’t a bad set-up because the leader, generally higher up in the organisation, had more information,” explains Kylie. “With more information he or she could make better decisions and therefore successfully give unquestioned direction. People willingly followed because they felt management knows best.”
Now: Communicate and motivate
These days, everyone has access to information all the time – so the traditional model of directing from a privileged seat of knowledge is no longer relevant. “Since leaders can’t direct or motivate using the power of exclusive knowledge, he or she must have the power of effectively influencing a diverse audience to motivate,” says Kylie. To inspire motivation, she adds, leaders need to be skilled communicators, trustworthy and approachable.
Then: Direct from afar
Traditional leaders tended to shoot off orders and watch results roll in. They didn’t get their hands dirty (they were too busy downing chardonnay over long business lunches) and they valued employees who could work to a brief, no questions asked.
Now: Involve and empower
Not surprisingly, the world’s most visionary companies have already worked out that to inspire a team to exceptional performance, you need to give them more power. This shift might be scary for some leaders, but it’s essential, says Kylie. “Not only involve your team, but make them feel involved in the vision, not just reading a script and doing what they are told to do. Have the confidence to delegate earlier than you want; assign responsibility further down the line. And always have everyone’s back regardless of the mistakes made.”
Then: Survival of the fittest
Work culture used to be about doing whatever it takes to climb the corporate ladder. The result? A dog-eat-dog world where only a lucky few were mentored to success. This negative environment is vanishing, says Kylie, and in its place are teams who want to work together for great results.
Now: Embrace differences
The best leaders of the future are those who recognise that diversity means strength. You’re likely to be working with multi-generational teams who have contrasting characteristics, which means it’s crucial to find a common goal. “Ask questions and listen,” advises Kylie. “Do this yourself – don’t rely on a consulting firm. If you don’t show personal interest and involvement, people won’t trust you. Find similarities (even if they’re worded differently) among the diverse groups because there will be more similarities than differences. And consistently demonstrate your effort to meet the needs of these groups without favouritism, bias or stereotypes.” This collaborative approach, she says, is more likely to inspire your team to work hard for you, not against you.
Then: Arrogant confidence
Confidence has always been key for leaders – but the arrogant, power-tripping kind is fast going out of style. “Arrogant confidence may get you a win today, but it will cause you to lose tomorrow,” says Kylie.
Now: Kindly confidence
The new confidence is authentic. It’s about making personal connections, being generous with your time, and developing a real positive regard for staff. This humble approach breaks down barriers, creating conversations and opportunities that wouldn’t otherwise occur. “Confidence is required in a leader; always has been, always will be,” confirms Kylie. “Being kindly and generous in your interactions with peers, direct reports and clients will open pathways to a trusted relationship and better outcomes.”