What leaders should do to be effective in business has significantly changed. The old style of command and control, where leaders promote fear through a series of threats to their teams, is no longer effective long term.
When I attended business school to study leadership in the mid-1980s, the subject revolved around individual leaders and what they had accomplished at specific companies. We were taught to try to emulate these specific individual styles and their results, but not what makes a good leader or how to get there. There was no taking into account the new generation of people we had to lead that looked at loyalty differently.
Now, business schools realize that employees no longer give loyalty to a company just for a financial reward. Instead, their loyalty is to the other team members that together are making a difference for customers. This has happened as a result of the merging of business and personal lives—more people are working remotely in their own homes anytime—and sometimes, all the time. This blending means that what people do for work has become even more a part of their overall identity, especially as they share their lives frequently on social media.
Jim Haudan, co-founder of management consultancy company Root Inc, believes that older leadership pressure tactics “often surface even more in times of crisis, uncertainty and stress as people commonly find themselves turning to old habits that are viewed as most expedient or trustworthy. But this type of leadership doesn’t work well and is the antithesis of modern leadership.” Instead, it's a leader's job to establish the company's mission, vision and values, while managers can help their teams successfully work on the day-to-day tasks.
1. Define Your Mission
One of the first steps a modern leader should consider taking help ensure success is to define the mission of the company for their teams; the purpose of why it exists and what it is trying to achieve in the market place. A business's mission, according to Haudan, is “why we do what we do. If leaders want people to be invested in our business, then we need to give them a meaningful purpose or mission because this will be what rallies people's hearts and minds around why we matter and the difference we make." Today's workers, says Haudan, "don’t want one quality of life at home and one at work—they don't want joy and exuberation and love in their personal lives only—they want these feelings in all areas of their lives."
Today's employee responds best when they feel like they're part of a team on a mission. According to Sanket Shah, the CEO of online video editing company InVideo, “Employees no longer work solely for a paycheck; they work for a sense of satisfaction and purpose. They’re most productive and happiest when… they’re part of something greater than themselves.”
As organizations, we become more committed when we decide what we stand for together. Values can’t be a string of words put on a plaque and then hung on the wall. Values must be manifested into how the company runs each day.
—Jim Haudan, co-founder, Root Inc
2. Articulate Your Long-Term Vision
The next thing a leader should articulate is the answer to the question, "What are we trying to achieve in the future?" This long-term vision, according to Haudan, is the thing that gets people excited to come to work each day. As much as people think employees work only for a paycheck, most team members want to be part of a company that will make a long-term difference in the world.
According to The Meaning and Purpose at Work report, a 2019 study by leadership development platform Better Up and published in the Harvard Business Review, 9 out 10 people are willing to earn less money to do more meaningful work. The workers surveyed want meaningful work badly enough that they would forego 23% of their entire future lifetime earnings in order to work that made a difference.
Ideally, the company becomes part of their personal identity. In this way, they can then easily promote the company brand to customers with a sense of excitement, so the customers in turn can become new evangelists to help grow the business.
Haudan says that the vision is about what we want to create that we would be willing to endure personal sacrifice to bring it to life. That concept of creation, that concept of finding a better way, that concept of adventure is what is compelling to people and is what causes them to become invested in their work at a very personal level.”
3. Communicate Values
A leader should also communicate the values of their company, the way the business commits to conducting itself each day. "As organizations, we become more committed when we decide what we stand for together," says Haudan. "Values can’t be a string of words put on a plaque and then hung on the wall. Values must be manifested into how the company runs each day."
Too many leaders state their company’s cultural values and then tuck them away until they review them next year. If your company’s values are respect for the individual or helping the community, does every action your company takes daily with employees, customers and vendors consistent with those values? For example, if you are creating a culture that values communication, you should answer all employee email in 24 hours, have a monthly “all hands” town hall and be willing to openly discuss what is not working.
4. Let Your Managers Set Goals
There is a critical difference between leading and managing people. A leader creates the environment where the team can be successful by stating the company's mission, vision and values. A manager sets the goals that need to be accomplished on a weekly or monthly basis and gives the team the tools to be successful. Managers help their staff prioritize tasks to get to the stated goal and hold their team accountable for accomplishing the agreed objectives. Remember that an effective manager and leader often do not exist within the same person, but the successful company needs both of these roles.
The effective leader also represents the company to the outside community by promoting and living their vision and values. They become the “face” of the business to attract customers that believe in the same things the company does and as a result want to buy their products and services.
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