“In Search of Excellence” revolutionized business leadership by promoting the concept of management by walking around. The classic leadership book encouraged managers to get out of their offices and interact with the workforce, walking around in random and unstructured ways. It changed the dynamic of leadership by increasing the value of observing, listening, and engaging with those who are on the front lines of day-to-day business operations.
In today’s business world, management by walking around isn’t nearly as effective as it once was because leaders who walk around the office find empty desks. The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a dispersed and largely de-personalized workplace. AI-driven automation is leading to a historic reduction in force, and engagement with workers who remain often involves exchanges between avatars on a messaging app.
The leadership dynamic has changed. To remain effective, today’s leaders need to adapt to a new workplace landscape, shifting their focus to developing skills that address new challenges.
Finding a new leadership rhythm
Change is hard. Failing to acknowledge change, however, makes it even harder.
To thrive in the new dynamic, leaders must understand and embrace the rhythm of the moment. The new workplace landscape has a different rhythm than it did only a few years ago. The best leaders will be those who can move in sync with the present reality.
For example, trust building has become an essential leadership skill as the workplace dynamic has changed. Monitoring employees in person is no longer an option for many leaders. A new approach is needed that allows autonomy while also requiring results.
Leaders looking to establish trust must start with clear expectations. Employees should understand what they are expected to deliver and how their performance impacts overall company performance. Norms for response times should also be established. Employees need to know if leaders expect emails or other messages to be answered within an hour, 24 hours, or by EOD.
Managing the new dynamic also requires leaders to be master motivators, as motivating distributed teams is exponentially harder than motivating the traditional in-office workforce. Remote workers don’t benefit from face-to-face interactions with leadership. They also have a lot more distractions.
Transparency has come to be seen as a critical component of motivation in today’s workplace. Employees want to know the “why” behind the “what.” Providing context helps employees to embrace and support business decisions and initiatives.
Thriving as a young leader
The new dynamic can be especially hard on aspiring and emerging leaders. The challenges within the workplace combined with external forces like poor economic conditions and disrupted supply chains leave little time for established leaders to support those on the rise.
Consequently, young leaders may need to find their own opportunities. Staying focused on goals and confident in abilities is critical. The best young leaders will learn how to be ethically and morally ruthless in their pursuit of good and truth. Removing anything non-essential to success will destroy the distractions and allow for optimal preparation.
Young leaders who are able to connect with mentors must be careful to stay true to themselves. Seasoned leaders can tend to project their own insecurities and thought patterns on those who lack experience, coaching it in terms of “wise advice.” In those situations, eat the meat (if there is any) and spit out the bones.
Young leaders should also be ready to decide quickly and move with urgency. Today’s business dynamic requires flexibility and adaptability. A fear of making mistakes shouldn’t discourage leaders from acting decisively; rather, failure is life’s great teacher. Indecision — not failure — is what young leaders should fear.
Surviving the leadership crisis
There is a leadership crisis in America today. Buffeted by rising costs, labor shortages, and economic uncertainty, many leaders have adopted a “profit at any cost” mentality. As a result, employees are neglected and peak performance is not achieved.
To keep the crisis from becoming a disaster, leaders must change their perspective and their approach in order to find ways that make the workplace engaging and inspiring again. Success requires prioritizing practices that resonate with the new dynamics of leadership.
Sean Shahkarami is a visionary leader, entrepreneur, author, executive and corporate coach, adjunct college professor, and public speaker. For his work in education, coaching, speaking in University classrooms, and his first book, “Resonate – Principles of Peak Performance,” he was awarded the Outstanding Leadership Award at the Health 2.0 Conference in acknowledgment of the innovative performance of his start-up healthcare AI software business.