How Leadership Has Changed Today from 5 Years Ago
The vision of yesterday’s leader – stern, by-the-book, and ruling with an iron fist – still lingers somewhere out there, but mainly exists in outdated films and old television shows. Today’s leaders are expected to be more like Michael Scott in The Office – humorous, fun-loving, friendly, and empathetic. But what caused this massive change in leadership, and how are leaders expected to manage their businesses today?
Whether you’re in the business of selling the most comprehensive range of products on the planet, like Amazon or have a very niche business, like FlyXO, leadership goals haven’t changed. Every business still needs to manage a team, reach as wide a range of customers as possible, and get as many people as it can to invest in it and purchase its products and services.
While the goals of a business remain the same as they were five years ago, how leaders need to go about reaching these goals couldn’t have changed more drastically. From managing technological advancements to shifting values and perspectives, leaders need to possess an entirely different skill set than they did half a decade ago.
Let’s take a look at the biggest game-changers for today’s leaders and what they mean for the future of leadership.
Managing vs. Leading
There’s no contesting that the chasm between the leadership styles of past decades and the ones of today has broadened drastically. In the not-so-distant past, leaders followed a model based on directing and administrating. This style started to shift within the last few decades, and today leaders follow a model based on guiding and inspiring.
It wasn’t long ago that the sole responsibility of someone in a leadership position was to basically figure out what needed to be done and then tell people how, when, what, and where to do it. These situational theories of leadership that were developed in the 60s and 70s eventually began to evolve and today have given way to transformational and shared leadership theories.
Today’s managers and leaders face an entirely new set of expectations for motivating their teams and followers. These days, especially over the last 5-10 years, people don’t want to be managed anymore. In some cases, they flat-out refuse to be managed – at least in the stern, cut-and-dry, “I rule, you follow” way that leaders have managed their teams in the past. The employees of today want to be led. They want to be active participants in the business and desire to engage in every aspect of their job. Creating a two-way relationship between leader and follower is essential in today’s business climate, especially considering that it’s not uncommon for many employees to have more knowledge about their respective industries and fields than their leaders.
The World is Shrinking and Time is Moving Faster
The leaders of previous decades were able to count on a reasonably stable world, where even if significant changes happened, the events of those changes and opinions surrounding them would unfold much slower. Now that information reaches us in nanoseconds, the world has become much smaller. Because of this, leaders mustn’t only appreciate diversity but must leverage it by becoming proactive and employing innovative strategies to get their business ahead.
Today’s leaders must anticipate even the most unimaginable issues and make plans to overcome any obstacle. They need to seek out new opportunities every day, look for new markets and products that come out every minute, and consider new and engaging ways to communicate and connect – not only with customers and potential customers but with other businesses around the world with which they can conduct business or who could help them grow in a partnership.
Compartmentalizing with an Overload of Information
The rapid spread of information also means that today’s leaders need to make the right decisions quickly, even in uncertain scenarios. This is an era of technological innovation and globalization where the once-clear boundaries between different industries and companies are becoming blurred. Today’s leaders don’t have the luxury of having long horizons to plan out their next moves. Real-time competition is the reality of today, so leaders must be able to take the overload of information thrown in their faces each day, organize, categorize, and make decisions at a moment’s notice.
Despite these pressures, however, leaders are expected to have a good sense of judgment, remain are open and transparent about their plans and decisions, and be cautious about their political, ethical, and environmental actions. Since there’s so much information – and misinformation – out there, and since it spreads like wildfire, even the slightest misstep or ill-considered word can sink a business overnight.
Broadened Perspectives and Changing Values
Another new challenge for today’s leaders is managing teams and understanding customers that consist of people from multiple generations. The last few generations of people have grown up under vastly different circumstances globally, so they all have interests, values, and needs that conflict. The one thing they all have in common, however, is that they expect a lot from their leaders.
With more self-interest and less tolerance than perhaps any other time in history and an overwhelming number of choices in every aspect of life, customer satisfaction and loyalty mean different things to different groups of people. It’s now up to today’s leaders to use in-depth analytical tools and various innovative means to understand a particular demographic for their specific industry or niche and ensure that their employees are motivated to cater to them in ways they can relate to.