Leadership Lessons: 3 Key Changes after 50 Years

Take a cursory glance at the business section in any bookstore and you’ll find somewhat of a “big bang” within the realm of leadership: a constantly expanding and changing world.

In the past 20 years alone, leaders have had to navigate drastic changes and the subsequent amount of resources just to keep up.

Consider some of the macro-level variables executive leaders have had to adapt to

  • The breakneck speed of technology

  • The, literal, worldwide access to employer and employee options

  • The long needed inclusion and appreciation of diversity and safety in the workplace

  • Advances in neuroscience and customer psychology

  • The complexities of the global market

What would happen if we looked at leadership’s changes over the past 50 years?
Which ones are key to reflect on?

Thankfully, that’s how long Promark’s been evaluating the leadership landscape and equipping executive leaders to lead themselves and others effectively. So, we asked PROMARK’s coaches for their thoughts on some of the most important paradigm changes within leadership.

1. C-Suite Autocracy to Collaborative Actualizing

Robotic, “one-size-fits-all” leadership styles with little to no thought of situational nuance, with a subsequent communication strategy of “…thus saith the CEO,” have proven ineffective. Today, leadership theories such as “transformational leadership” or “leader-member exchange” (LMX) have given way to more collaborative, didactic, and empathetic leadership styles producing healthier work cultures, lower turnover rates, greater credibility, and stronger bottom lines.

As one PROMARK coach shared, “In my tenure as a coach, I have seen a major shift in thinking from top-down leadership to flatter, matrixed organizations that leverage our need for and the power of collaboration—and obtain better results.”


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2. Employee as Hireling to Valued Team Member

The aforementioned, outdated leadership style encouraged a viewpoint of the employee that minimized her as a means-to-an-end to accomplish the leader’s goals. But the shift to a more collaborative leadership style has helped leaders situate themselves as equippers and catalysts instead of enforcers. The employee is no longer a two-dimensional workhorse; she’s a team member with a unique personality with gifts and a soft skills set. In light of this, effective leaders take the time to implement processes to understand, align, motivate, and appreciate their team members for who they are, not solely for what they provide.

As one PROMARK coach commented, “Alignment starts with hiring to your vision, then understanding what compels each person to perform their best and providing continuous feedback to ensure you are still in sync.”

3. Leader as Superhero to Leader as Human

Leadership is hard. Life is messy. In leadership circles in the past, these two realities were kept separate, even in coaching contexts. That’s different now.

While executive coaches today aren’t therapists, they do help guide leaders to understand how life inevitably involves itself in one’s ability to cope with the pressures of leading. The effective leader is no longer the unbreakable superhero. Rather, she’s mindful there’s no way to separate life’s influence on leadership, and that caring for one is caring about the other.

In other words, effective leaders remember they’re human, too.

As one PROMARK coach said, “…focus on the executive as a whole person, supporting them not only in making behavioral changes for greater effectiveness but also, without providing therapy, helping them “own” personal changes that often result from the coaching experience, e.g., increases in self-esteem, overcoming fears, [or] tackling life’s challenges that are distracting/preventing them from performing at their best at work.”

Through the last 50 years, these three key changes have spurred on hundreds of other related changes. Leadership and change, it seems, go hand in hand. As John Kotter, Professor of Leadership at the Harvard Business School, wrote:

“Leadership is very much related to change. As the pace of change accelerates, there is naturally a greater need for effective leadership.”

In the midst of leadership’s changes, you’ll find PROMARK’s coaches’ unwavering commitment to equip leaders to be effective in an ever-changing world.


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