In the last several months I have been noticing a theme in listening while engaged in countless conversations with clients and prospects: people are feeling a need to shift the belief of what leadership really is.
The traditional model of leadership—one that is exclusive and places the most senior or experienced person in charge—is a dated perspective. In today’s world, one’s experience and knowledge may not actually be their greatest asset.
I’ve been hearing more people question how their superiors lead, if they are the best person to do so and whether they feel supported by their leader. I see that people are intentionally trying to identify what does and doesn’t make a good leader and internalizing that knowledge to define their own personal sense of leadership.
There is this clarity among people that you do not actually have to be a boss to be a leader. Instead we should look at how people are social influencers (and I don’t mean on social media). I mean observe how people work with others, how they carry themselves, how they react to various situations. Do they lead by example? Do they inspire you? Are they influential in an empowering way?
Whether you’re leading yourself, your community, a team or an organization, leadership is a balance of confidence and humility. And I will let you in on a little secret about humility: the more you know, the more you know there is so much more to know. Who do you learn from? Only from the people above and older than you?! You learn from all demographics (all five generations in today’s workforce), across cultures and ethnicities. Everyone has value to bring and good leaders know this, so they're inclusive. They let everyone use their voice, and they listen, because they know.
After all, people rarely leave jobs, they leave leaders. There is a talent game as it is in business, and good leaders know that retaining their talent is key. They attract strong employees because empowered people want to work with people that also feel empowered. Key going forward is to consider that talented people realize they can make money and a commensurate title at thousands of companies. So what is it that is going to truly attract them to work for you?
Leadership that is unique. Leaders that are not afraid to be different by leading with empathy, compassion and authenticity. Those that realize empowering themselves first in turn empowers their teams. Offering your people personal growth and self improvement programming or stipends to invest in themselves will be a tipping point for you versus company ABC. People today are very focused on their whole self and no longer want to show up as a fragmented self. You can encourage them to be whole and show up authentic, but you and your fellow leaders have to lead the way. You have to set the tone in the culture and lead this way first.
Be an agent of change. Don’t be afraid to set yourself apart and push the envelope. I bet it won’t be long before people are right there supporting your voice. People are seeing that good ideas and innovative approaches do not just come from people with 30 years of work experience.
As more people speak up, ineffective and dis-empowering leaders are being replaced with “non-traditional” leaders: younger workers, women, minorities. It’s about time the change is coming. The world is finally ready for them and for you. So be the leader that you want to see, and empower those around you to do the same, without worrying about the experience you have.