Leadership – Then and Now

Sometimes it’s kind of interesting to go back in time and see what folks were talking about on different management topics, then to compare that to what we are hearing today. Back in 2007, a magazine called JCI Leader (The Magazine for Young Leaders & Entrepreneurs) did a piece on “Building the 21st Century Leader: Heading Up a Successful Company Today.”

The article reviewed the skills that were needed to lead your business to success, with a focus on leadership. Several key points were made, including:

  • you can’t bark orders at your employees circa 1950 “boss” architype
  • buddy-buddy, hang-loose management via 1990’s approaches gain you no respect
  • abilities to innovate, execute, and be a strong role model are essential
  • decisiveness, insightfulness and keeping ideas flowing is ultra important
  • a willingness to question “what are we not doing right?” and then fix it

In the end, the article pointed to a digest of key traits that are crucial for good leadership in changing workplace environments.

(1) Adaptability: change is the norm, rather than the exception. People unwilling to change will not keep up with the marketplace nor with their internal needs for a thriving company. Adaptability means hard choices, sometimes even giving up certain values or beliefs. Workers need to be encouraged to raise tough issues before they become a crisis.

(2) Self-Awareness: Ken Blanchard in the book The One Minute Manager notes that “before leaders can tackle the challenges at heir organizations, they have to look in the mirror. The journey of leadership is first taking a look at yourself.” Leaders need to root out negative patterns. Assessment of strengths and weaknesses on a personal level, helps a leader to better manage themselves, and ultimately their relationships with others.

(3) People Skills: Authenticity, accessibility, and respect are just some of the traits workers look for in their leadership. Giving personal credit where it is due is also a key factor. Communicating and allowing people to feel safe about any change in the organization is another key trait employees look for in a leader.

(4) Decisiveness: Holding endless meetings are out the window. At current rates of change fast action is what is needed. Doing what it takes to speed up the decision-making process is essential for good leadership.

(5) Collaborative Skills: More managers and leaders who can work across boundaries, break down silos, and open up the conversation.

Although written three years ago, it looks like most of this article is applicable in today’s management environment. What kind of leader are you?

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