Leader, manager, line-manager, boss, head honcho, big cheese. Leaders are at the core of the workplace, but who are they, who can become one and what’s changed since the old days?
We all know the type of leader who micromanages you from the comfort of their ivory tower, but things are changing and have been for a while. If you want to stick around as a leader you need to know who you’ll be managing and what they want from work.
Let’s look at what’s changed and more importantly where we’re going next.
Can anyone lead?
Hell yes! But it does require specific skills you need to learn, just like a chef or a footballer (don’t worry you don’t need to learn how to make Croquembouche to be a leader!) The age-old debate that a leader is born not made is pretty out-dated.
Many 21st century leaders think of leading as having the will to stand up and be counted. So really, the passion to inspire and motivate people is the only thing you need to have within you, you can learn the rest.
That said, there’s a few core skills that are associated with the modern leadership style. In a nutshell, it’s about understanding human behaviour in the workplace and then giving people what they need to do their best.
Core skills for the future of leadership
The bread and butter of leadership. Without the trust of the people in your team, you’re pretty much finished as a leader. Earning the trust of the people you’re leading feeds into other core skills like listening, honesty and empathy.
If you show you’re no better than them, keeping the conversation open and honest you’ll find people will trust your choices far more. They’ll also understand that you’ve got the company’s best interest in mind. It goes both ways too, giving the opportunity to others in your team to make decisions that you openly trust allows them to be autonomous and feel valued.
Empathy & Humility
We’ll say it louder for the people at the back; treat people like people, not like numbers that need to go up. If you empathise with their ups and downs as well as motivations you can get a better picture of what’s really going on and the best way to help. I feel like you can be as empathetic as you like but without your own humility, it can feel a bit false. Bringing yourself down to others’ level and accepting that their way is better than yours, or even having a conversation like equals really helps people take the initiative.
As you lead with more empathy and humility people will naturally want to trust you and become more invested in their own work. Remember whatever you do rubs off on the people you lead, like a Mexican wave of goodness!
Telling people as it is rather than sugarcoating everything helps them understand not only what’s expected of them, but also how that aligns with the company’s goals. Great examples of this case in point is the Forbes article around key skills for 2020 leadership. They use Kate who works for a financial services company to show how effective being ‘driven by the company mission’ is.
Consistently speaking about these goals give the team an idea of what they’re aiming for and how what they’re doing influences the bigger picture.
What do I need to do to be a future leader?
In a way, the future is already here, with younger generations moving into the workforce already. It’s scary to think that ‘by 2025, roughly 75% of the global workforce will be millennials’ when in 2018 they only occupied 35% of the American workforce. So what does this mean for who will lead and more importantly, how we lead?
With the younger generation comes a new demand for learning and development. So as a leader you should consider how to facilitate this need through perhaps more budget or time allowances to improve their knowledge. They’re also driven by a thing called ‘shared purpose’, meaning they like to know how they fit into the bigger picture. So it’s good to include them in leadership discussions and share the company goals often.
It’s also great to note that Millennials and GenZ have a hunger for constantly advancing, so giving them new challenges and projects will help them get the experience they want.
The phrase on everyone’s lips and undoubtedly makes new generations the most different from say, Baby Boomers. Work-life balance needs to be considered in your leadership. Whether that’s giving them more time and flexibility to deal with personal errands like visiting house viewings or therapy. Or whether it’s enforcing a strong ‘switch off’ policy, so once you clock off, you don’t answer work emails or work on tasks.
Flexible working also means giving them the ability to work where they want, when they want. So remote working and flexible office hours give them what they need do their best work. The line used in the Man Power Group study of Millennials in the workforce sums it up nicely ‘money, security and time to smell the roses’.
It’s no mystery why a generation raised on tech want more tech in their jobs. So if you want to keep up with the new leaders that’ll rise up the ranks, get to grips with new tech and start implementing it now. A simple starting point is your document processes, are you still working with piles of papers that need to be signed off and filed away?
How about a digital system that does all that for you? ESignature software like Signable means you can send documents to anyone in the world for a fraction of the price. It also saves your signed documents in the cloud so no more filing! Modernisation has to start somewhere.
A huge point not to be missed even if you’re already encouraging collaboration. Future generations think of their jobs as a big part of their lives, so making their voice heard through collaborative sessions is a big one. ‘74 percent of Millennials prefer to collaborate in small groups.’
This again comes into tech too, as old processes have been inherently private, but with the rise of Google Docs etc, our tech is allowing more creative collaboration. So encouraging your team to work with another team or schedule collaborative time to talk out ideas is essential.
Where do we go from here?
If you’re a current leader or looking to become one, it’s more important than ever to study who you’ll be leading. We’ll leave you with a parting stat for some food for thought 12% of Millennials globally say it is unlikely they will ever retire, so get used to the new workforce!
Sophie Torry-Cook writes for Signable, the UK’s top electronic signature provider. When she’s not wiriting, she’s directing short films and hunting for fashion bargains.