Forty years ago, there was little talk in business about engaging employees, coaching and developing direct reports, or cultivating the company culture. Many people stayed at the same organization for most of their career. Traditional managers, who were task-oriented and provided a lot of direction but very little inspiration, were tolerated. The command and control style of leadership prevailed.
The landscape of the work environment has changed. Employees have more choices, and will leave an organization where they don’t feel valued or appreciated. Traditional leaders won’t survive in the best organizations; there is only room for modern leaders.
We all have heard horror stories of ineffective, bad bosses. But in my experience, most traditional leaders are not narcissistic and power-hungry. They are mediocre managers (and executives) who lack the necessary leadership skills to be successful. They aren’t naturally inclusive, approachable, and engaging, and their leadership style reflects that.
To succeed in leadership today, managers need to be modern leaders. A modern leader is approachable, engaging and focused. The modern leader promotes an environment of productivity and positivity. A modern leader has emotional intelligence and understands the importance of cultivating relationships in the workplace. A culture is created by the people in the organizational system. If you want to elevate your culture, you need to elevate your leadership.
You may be a traditional leader and not know it. But trust me, your employees do. They are talking about it behind your back, and your high-performing employees are looking for a quick exit (if they are still there). Read below for what distinguishes a traditional leader from a modern leader:
- command and control
- doesn’t provide feedback
- focuses on finding mistakes and reprimanding; holds people accountable through fear
- very little engagement with employees
- no coaching or development
- believes the paycheck is the reward for work
- thinks he/she should know all the answers
- more task-oriented and in the weeds
- thinks he/she worked hard to advance and deserves leadership
- encouraging and inviting
- provides timely, constructive, consistent feedback
- focuses on learning from mistakes; holds people accountable in a positive, principled way
- finds ways to consistently engage with employees
- sees coaching and developing as a top priority
- actively thanks employees and shows appreciation
- solicits ideas and suggestions from employees; encourages employee involvement
- more proactive, strategic, and visionary
- sees leadership as a privilege and enjoys serving his/her employees
The first step to transitioning from a traditional leader to a modern leader is awareness. Take time to reflect on your leadership and determine in what areas you need to develop.
It’s never been more challenging to be a leader than it is today. The best organizations only hire and keep modern leaders. If you want to improve your leadership, start by asking for feedback from those around you. The following questions can help to open the dialogue with employees so that you can gain relevant feedback to improve as a leader:
- What is one thing you would like for me to continue doing?
- What’s one thing you would like to see me do more of?
- What is one thing that I should stop doing?
- What are the qualities you appreciated most from the best leader you ever worked for?
- How can I support you better?
If you suspect your employees won’t be honest with you, then perhaps a formal or informal 360-degree assessment can give you the anonymous feedback you need to continue to grow and develop as a leader.