The good old days where employees just knew their CEO’s name, face and business reputation are a thing of the past.
Today they also know your salary, your hometown, your connections on LinkedIn, even how much your house is worth.
And along with this increased transparency comes increased pressure and accountability. Good leaders have always stepped out of their comfort zones, but converging global megatrends are putting more pressure on those at the top to navigate a faster, more complex, more integrated, and more transparent business world. In a recent book by Georg Vielmetter and Yvonne Sell entitled: Leadership 2030: The six megatrends you need to understand to lead your company into the future, the two examined the repercussions of the convergence of major forces like globalization, climate change, increased individualism, and accelerating digitisation.
Some of their findings suggest that leadership in the future will involve increased personal and business-level discomfort. She agrees that leaders will have to cope with the blurring of private and public life and that they will have to forge new relationships with competitors and employees. This will require new skills and mindsets.
Leadership is the single most important thing an organisation can get right. But while organisational leadership is the most spoken about concept in the business world, it’s also the most misunderstood.
What no one is formally taught is the crucial part role modeling plays in organisational leadership, adding that a leader’s assumptions, beliefs and values also greatly impact on behavior and their resulting ability to successfully lead an organisation.
The way that role modelling and engagement happens is also changing. As Vielmetter and Sell point out, connectivity-enabling technology and virtual workplaces change how people interact. Leaders must now learn to engage employees across cultures and business roles through new mediums. They must acquire digital wisdom, even if they lack digital knowledge.
Possibly the biggest adjustment for leaders of today is a power shift that requires major changes to how they think and work. Many are accustomed to command-and-control, to fear over love, and to “lead, follow, or get out of the way.” But hierarchies are flattening as power moves away from top internal management and toward employees and a proliferation of external stakeholders. Companies must now appeal to a plethora of global consumer markets, each with distinctive attitudes and desires.
“What this essentially means, ” says Vielmetter, “is that leaders motivated by power over others will not thrive in this new world. We will see more” “ltrocentric” leaders, who understand that leadership is a relationship and will therefore focus primarily on others rather than themselves. These new leaders will be far more adept at engaging rather than commanding. They will have the ability to see themselves as just one integral part of the whole. Altrocentric leaders will be capable of long-term vision encompassing both global and local perspectives. This is a far cry from the old traditional egocentric leaders who were more concerned with personalised power. Altrocentric leaders, on the other hand, derive power from motivating, not controlling, others.
The altrocentric leader who is intrinsically motivated by socialised power, and who draws strength and satisfaction from teaching, teambuilding, and empowering others, will be able to handle the increased pressure of tomorrow’s business environment. That is why there needs to be a greater consciousness around the role of leadership. Where you have healthy functional leaders who give a clear directive, who on a daily basis help employees towards that directive, and who then display behaviour consistent with where the organisation intends to go, that is where you will find or cultivate an engaged workforce.
All leaders will see life become more chaotic and overwhelming, and their struggles and management will be more visible than ever. Egocentric leaders will have a difficult time evolving, if they even can, and will be unable to thrive in such discomfort.
Organisations need to develop leaders who are motivated by altrocentric leadership. The truth is people don’t stay with companies – they stay with leaders. And when people stay with leaders who inspire them, who make sense to them and who are true to the values that the organisation has articulated, the workforce will give what’s called ‘discretionary or extra effort’ and companies will be better prepared to succeed in 2030 and beyond.
Natalie Maroun is the MD of LRMG.