Is It Time to Ditch These Old-School Leadership Tactics?

There are certain leadership tactics that don’t work for today’s purpose-driven communities. If you're practicing the following tactics, it may be time to adopt a more modern style of management.
October 03, 2018

Our world is changing and changing fast, from the way we eat and dress to the way we take care of our health. The same applies to our professional lives, as the way we connect with and work with each other has changed. But have your leadership tactics evolved with the times?

Sticking with old-school leadership tactics may not serve you or your company well. A leader's style has an influence on a company's culture. Culture can influence employee behaviors and, by extension, company performance. Old-school leadership tactics may adversely affect your ability to attract and retain the best of today's savvy and dynamic employees.

How can you tell if you're using outdated leadership tactics? Here are three main characteristics of old-school leadership—and what you may want to use instead:

1. Confusing guidance with control.

In contemporary management, a leader sets the company's brand and hires the people who fit that brand. This type of leader guides people by providing the framework, and setting clear objectives and desired outcomes. The leader trusts that the employees will do the right things.

One leadership style doesn't fit all. An effective leader knows to use different leadership styles for different situations.

By contrast, the leader who uses old-school leadership tactics comes from a position of control. Lacking trust in people, the old-school leader is at the center of all decision-making.

Rather than inspiring people to see how high they can fly, this kind of leader metaphorically clips their wings to keep them grounded where they can be managed and controlled. The leader's concern for maintaining authority limits team members' creativity and self-expression instead of empowering them to give their best.

Today, talented people may flee such leaders. Others may stay and slowly become cogs in the system. If you want to surround yourself with talented people who can help you thrive, you may need to reconsider this leadership tactic.

2. Using monetary incentives to influence people.

Someone who has an old-school leadership mindset may view financial incentives as a prime source of motivation for all employees. Money talks, right? Give people more money, and they'll do what you want.

However, money alone doesn't drive and inspire people to give you their best.

It's safe to say that many people today, especially millennials, are purpose-driven. They may want more than just a job that pays well and is close to home. Fundamentally, people want to know that what they do makes a difference for their community, for society or for the world at large. Working for a company just to improve the bottom line may not be the magnet that attracts the best minds or the most talented workers.

Moreover, today's workers may value being recognized and praised for their contributions more than money. They may appreciate rewards such as extended parental leave, bringing their dog to the office and flexible hours. They value even choosing the devices they use to do their work.

To move away from old-school leadership tactics, ask yourself:

  • Do I advertise your company values?
  • Do I provide meaning for people?
  • Do I show existing and prospective employees how their work contributes to the greater good?
  • Do I offer up-to-date rewards to employees?

These may all be essential considerations in attracting the best people to help you win in the market.

3. Overusing parental leadership tactics.

In their zeal to care for people, employers who use an old-school leadership style may overdo their role in managing people.

Here's a small, but telling, example. When I was delivering a workshop a few years ago, I heard the leader in the room tell people that they can feel free to use the restroom and not wait until the official breaks.

These well-meaning leaders may infantilize people by being over solicitous. It's fair to say that this parental type of leader generally expects obedience.

Old-school leadership tactics may not appeal to the type of workers who are more likely to help you grow in today's crowded and fiercely competitive arena. In our modern times, you may need people who can push the boundaries, people you empower to find solutions for what they need to do without waiting for the boss to tell them what to do.

Leaders who have an overly parental style may also be less likely to admit when they don't know something. Letting others see that they don't have all the answers wouldn't fit with the image of a patriarch or matriarch. Consider this: The employee of today—read millennials and soon Gen Z—don't necessarily expect perfection from their boss. They look for leaders who have the courage and confidence to admit that they don't have all the answers, people who are authentic and apologize when they make a mistake.

Eccentrics, mavericks and out-of-the-box thinkers generally don't thrive in workplaces led by a leader who practices a more parental, autocratic type of leadership. These employees are likely to quickly look for the exit door once they find themselves in such environments.

One leadership style doesn't fit all. An effective leader knows to use different leadership styles for different situations. However, one form of leadership that may not survive in the workplace of the future is a style that relies on old-school leadership tactics.

What's your leadership style? Do you use old or new leadership tactics?

Read more articles on leadership skills

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