Leadership has changed and the skills that are required have changed with it.
The old style of leadership shared certain values- it was rigid, authoritarian, questions were rarely asked and it was strictly hierarchical. Leaders were the ones with the knowledge and expertise and employees needed to obey orders. This wasn’t an effective form of leadership as it didn’t always bring out the best in people. As our relationship with work has changed and employees have become more self-aware and more aware in turn of what they want from work, so leaders have changed.
Here’s some tips on how to be aligned with the new leadership style.
In the old world of leadership there was a professional and personal distance between the employer and employee. The idea that you shared things that were going on in your personal life with your employer (unless in crisis) was frowned upon. Now leaders are expected to be empathetic and listen to their teams. They need to be able to put themselves in their team’s shoes and understand their context (both personal and professional). They need to be emotionally intuitive and to gauge when is a good time to communicate a certain message and when isn’t.
A staggering 89% of employees agree that empathy leads to better leadership. In fact, 88% feel that empathetic leadership inspires positive change within the workplace, and 87% say that it enables trust among employees and leaders. Additionally, 85% report that empathetic leadership in the workplace increases productivity among employees1.
Perhaps in the past managers would put on a mask when they came to work. This meant they’d be more authoritative, formal and act in a way that wasn’t aligned with their values. The new leadership style is more about being yourself and ensuring that your decisions are based on your gut instinct and values.
If you do this employees are more likely to respect you because they’ll sense that you are being yourself and not acting in a prescribed way. Authenticity is important as you want to encourage your team to be themselves too.
In the corporate culture there is still an expectation that leaders look a certain way in terms of fashion or aesthetic i.e. they wear a suit. However in many companies there isn’t that expectation anymore. In essence you need to look smart but you also need to be true to your values (this loops back to the idea of authenticity). So you don’t need to suddenly start wearing suits if this isn’t your personality.
Instead find a style that suits you and build on that (it might mean dialing down some of your more casual aesthetic but the rules around work are shifting).
Great leaders can show weakness whereas in the past that would have been a no no. The thing is that nobody is perfect and pretending that you always have the correct solution is unrealistic. It’s okay to admit that you need time to think about a problem, and more importantly to bring your team into your decision making process. Ask them for input. Collaborate.
This isn’t a weakness - this is creating a culture of trust and showing your vulnerability too.
The other idea that has shifted is that leaders need to keep a growth mindset. They are evolving and a work in progress. It’s unrealistic to feel like you know everything. In fact it’s much more edifying to imagine you still have room to grow and learn. This learning comes from employees, from peers and from resources (like Piper).
Failure is also normal and can be seen as a positive. Tell yourself this when you feel overwhelmed.
All good leaders have been in the same place as you are and have recovered (and have emerged stronger and more resilient longer term).