Evolution of leadership - why you should care
Leadership styles are changing in the 21st century.
Traditionally, authority and responsibility have been the two crucial elements defining a leader. It was simple: a great leader had the presence to direct people and make decisions. Whether you subscribe to this or not, it’s clear that leadership is a matter of great complexity with room for many types of leadership styles. Of course, how a leader goes about the task is what’s really remembered.
In his guest appearance on EntreLeadership Podcast, Lieutenant General George Flynn, USMC(Retired) outlined the winning attributes of an outstanding leader. With a professional military career of 38 years achieving the highest levels of leadership himself, his podcast was packed with insight and fresh perspectives. The cornerstone of any leadership style, he said, was building great relationships and trust within a team. It motivates people to take on tasks that they may not otherwise want to do and fosters a ‘follow-me’ philosophy. Only then, when people trust your leadership, is it likely they will always follow – even when you are weathering a storm.
“When leaders inspire those they lead, people dream of a better future, invest time and effort in learning more, do more for their organisations and along the way become leaders themselves. A leader who takes care of their people and stays focused on the well-being of the organisation can never fail.” Lt. Gen. George Flynn
Simon Sinek, Author, Speaker and Leadership Consultant agrees. Professional competence is not enough. Good leaders inspire trust and must truly care about those around them.
Here are four simple means of inspiring others and finding our own leadership capabilities.
To Sinek, great leadership is about looking out for the person to your left while supporting the person to your right and not forgetting about the people above and below. This creates a circle of trust. “We’re not good at everything”, he says, “We’re not good by ourselves. Our ability to build trust and relationships is the key to our survival.” Time invested in building relationships and trust has a higher value than is often attributed to it. The trust that such a relationship generates creates an environment where people share values and work cohesively for one cause.
Managers become leaders only when they are encouraged to learn. Leadership, Sinek contends, is a quality that can be taught - but only if you have the knowledge to teach it well. Look beyond institutional training and certification programs, he says. The onus is on companies to search more widely and for more innovative solutions. Universal access to online magazines such as lnc.com and the best of contemporary thinking, can provide innovative and adaptable solutions that can translate effectively to any workplace.
Sinek believes that very few people know why they do what they do. Most leaders know what they do; some know how they do it; but few really understand their purpose or cause - what really inspires them to do what they do. The few leaders who have a strong grasp on all three - what, how and why - are the ones who outperform and outlast all others.
Relationships are built through conversation – and the nemesis of in-person conversation is the ever present mobile device. Great leaders take the device out of the equation at crucial times. Holding a phone or even having it alongside you during a meeting where it pings, buzzes, flashes and beeps, transmits a message to all in the room that they do not have your full attention. Having a device within your reach is simply impolite, asserts Sinek!
Create an environment where a meaningful exchange can take place. Put the device in a back pocket, handbag or desk drawer. It sends a strong behavioural message – ‘I am listening to you and I am completely engaged with what you have to say.’
In a changing and innovative world, it’s not so surprising that our leadership styles are having to evolve. Great leaders recognise that the concept no longer revolves around a lone figure of authority or a hierarchy but is an integrated team of individuals brought together by that all-too-human of things, the ability to build relationships and trust. Plus that oldest of leadership qualities – the capacity to care.
About the contributor:
Jennifer Gutwenger is Founder and Principal Consultant at #HR, a unique, boutique and yet multi-disciplined consultancy. #HR helps business owners and managers implement best practice and thinking, through HR Solutions, Pulse Check and Design insights. Jennifer herself combines a seasoned background in corporate HR, a deep working knowledge of systemic best practice, and an inclination to muse. Website: http://www.hashtaghr.com.au