Let’s Close the Book on 20th Century Leadership.
Leadership as you know it is about to change.
Not because there’s a new and better kind of leadership approach making its way to business schools.
No, the kind of shift I’m talking about is bigger than that. It’s based on the many systemic adjustments taking place around us. Politically, socially and environmentally.
A few examples: The push and pull between geopolitical isolationism and globalization; polarized political strife domestically and abroad; Black Lives Matter, Me Too, same-sex marriage and LGBTQ movements; religious extremism and the demands for religious tolerance.
What we are seeing today in these larger, global and domestic systems will soon be pounding on your door. Not just asking for, but demanding, change in how work is conducted and employees are treated.
This may seem like fear-mongering, but I assure you that’s not my intention. Instead, I offer these predictions to help identify what you, as a leader, can start adjusting now. So that you can be considered an innovative leader who ‘gets it’ and represents the model for others to follow into the future.
1. Dominance is out, collaboration is in.
The paternal, power-based structures many of us have grown up with are on their way out. In their place will be expectations for new structures and systems that limit autocratic power, greed and hierarchies, redefine value and position, and do so in ways that recognize and reward the efforts of all contributors instead of a select few.
Collaboration, in this case, does not mean everyone must contribute to everything all the time. Instead, it means inviting participation in an environment built on autonomy, respect, and trust. Where all feel valued for their individual and collective contributions.
2. Exclusion is out, acceptance is in.
Hiring based on self-similarity or familiarity is a thing of the past. Leaders must be willing and able to throw out expectations for conformity to one defined world view for their companies to compete in this new era. And instead, model behavior that embraces difference in perspectives, backgrounds, preferences, and beliefs, along with the standards of race, ethnicity, gender, age, religion and sexual preference. Uniting around common vision and purpose instead of exclusion through personal characteristics is a good way to go instead.
3. Secrecy is out, transparency is in.
If it hasn’t already become apparent, people are tired of secrets. The onset of social media, reality programming, wiki leaks along with the many ‘gates’ and other newsworthy scandals have made it clear that secrets will no longer be tolerated in society or at work. The new expectation is for honesty and openness, which also requires – scary word alert…vulnerability – on the part of leaders as they navigate this new landscape.
Don’t worry, you can still make decisions. Just make it clear how the decision-making process will work. A large part of transparency has to do with communication, so if you’re currently someone who keeps a lot to yourself, some skill-building in this area may be in order.
4. Rigidity is out, fluidity is in.
Blanket policies requiring people to fit into a particular box will no longer work with the social changes taking place. Instead, recognizing and accommodating individual preferences and needs will be required. This demonstrates support for the unique requirements of each individual contributor.
There is no room for either/or leadership thinking in this new environment. Instead, changing one-size-fits-all policies and practices to offer flexible options for a variety of preferences – based on input from the people who will be impacted – is ideal. Similar to the 3D printer, making space for customization where individual preferences create the code is the way to empower, instead of dictate, to members of this new work environment.
5. Certainty is out, ambiguity is in.
Gone are the days of business as usual. Now and into the future, uncertainty runs the show, and it is imperative that leaders get comfortable with it so they can support their business and employees through the stress that often accompanies frequent change.
Just-in-time operations are only the start. A continuously evolving landscape requires the ability to quickly shift gears and focus on emerging opportunities. It also requires adapting products and services to meet customer demands. And accommodating employee requirements through workplace design and labor practices. Making this shift transforms nimbleness from a buzzword to a core business practice.
6. Stoicism is out, expression is in.
This one is much bigger than it may appear. Statements like, “it’s business, not personal”, or any attempts to restrict the presence of emotions in the workplace are not going to fly anymore.
This may be one of the most uncomfortable changes for leaders to embrace because many of us have been conditioned to believe that showing emotion in public – especially at work – is a bad thing. But research is now finding that stifling emotions is the reason many problems in the workplace exist.
High absenteeism, low engagement and productivity, workplace conflict, office politics and the like all have their roots in emotions. It turns out the work environment can actually be a happy, productive and thriving place when healthy emotional expression is supported, encouraged, and modeled by leaders.
7. Secularism is out, spirituality is in.
To avoid the perception of having a religious preference, most companies today stay wide and clear of it, opting instead for policies that restrict religious expression in the workplace. That’s about to change. There is no room for fractional work environments in 21st-century workplaces.
Instead, acceptance of all beliefs – religious, spiritual and secular – including the ability to openly practice them, will become the norm. And concepts such as mindfulness, meditation, reflection, gratitude, and energy healing, will be integrated into the culture instead of being considered side-bar flavor-of-the-month wellness experiments.
8. 3D leadership is out, 5D is in.
This one might seem far out to some, and may require the largest mindset adjustments in order to embrace it, although many of the elements above include aspects of this shift.
3D leadership represents an emphasis on tangible, physical approaches to business and work to the exclusion of other, non-tangible, influences. Working excessive hours to push through a project in order to meet a deadline is an example of 3D leadership in action. Of course, there are aspects of the 3D approach that are necessary to create profitability, but the mentality behind it is what will shift.
In 5D leadership, the non-tangibles, such as mindset, emotional dynamics, energy fields, intuition, and collective consciousness, are considered first. Then they are woven into the planning, preparation, and actions that produce the results.
The outcomes are the rewards of attending to the full human experience during the planning and action stages. And are created from intention and attention to these powerful, yet esoteric, aspects that are often disregarded and dismissed as ‘woo woo’ in a 3D environment.
Ultimately, all of these predicted shifts point to one thing; treating people as whole beings instead of merely bodies employed to do a job and make your company money.
It’s About Respecting The Whole Person.
These predictions for the evolution of leadership are just that; predictions. But many are well on their way to becoming reality, as can be seen in the social and political changes occurring today. That suggests it won’t be long before expectations for these emerging perspectives start showing up in your company. And this is a good thing!
Ultimately, all of these predicted shifts point to one thing; treating people as whole beings instead of merely bodies employed to do a job and make you money. You may already be evolving in this direction, and if you are, kudos to you! But even if you haven’t, just starting with small steps with any of these concepts will put you well ahead of those who take no action at all.
This article offers only a taste of each leadership shift. Future posts will explore each one in greater detail along with tips for transitioning from the old way to the new way. If you don’t want to wait for these things, I invite you to reach out so we can set up a time to discuss your needs in greater detail. Onwards and upwards my friends!