Generations ago, successful “leaders” in the commercial marketplace and the world of business were assumed to hold certain characteristics: They didn’t tolerate dissent, they didn’t seek input from others, and they lived in a world marked by signs of hierarchy and dominance, both overt and symbolic. They sat in a larger chair than everyone else at the conference table, spoke in a louder voice, and occupied a larger office. Most significantly, they got things done by simply issuing an order or describing a goal, and then they sat back and expected the goal to be achieved or the order to be followed.
As most successful business leaders in the modern era recognize, this model has become outdated. Executives and managers who bark orders and don’t seek input tend to struggle in the modern workplace, and as these outmoded practices slip away, new strategies have evolved to take their place.
Some suggest a gender-based influence
Some researchers suggest that this cultural shift has been influenced or partially driven by the rising influence of women in the workplace since women are assumed to hold more egalitarian values and their strategies are assumed to emphasize communication and cooperation. The weight of this influence can be hard to measure without relying on gender stereotypes, but these two trends — the influence of women and an increase in egalitarian workplace culture — show a similar rise that indicates a correlation, if not a causation. Successful debates and negotiations are now measured by the achievement of mutual goals, and authoritarian practices are no longer eliciting the results and earning the respect they may have earned in the past.
Workers now want coaches, not bosses
Two additional trends are on the move which may or may not be directly related: Modern employees tend to move from one job to another throughout their careers, rather than cultivating a lifelong relationship with one company. At the same time, employees no longer seek a boss who barks commands, but rather a coach who can help them build skills that support their lifelong career growth. Since employees don’t expect a decades-long personal and familial relationship with their supervisors, social hierarchy doesn’t interest them. Instead, they seek managers who impart new skills and provide honest feedback that they can take with them when they leave the company.
Takeaways for modern managers
In the 21st century, business leaders thrive and grow when they demonstrate emotional intelligence, invest in coaching and mentoring, and seek a connection with employees through honesty, equality, and partnership. Motivate and engage your employees by dialing into their sense of purpose and providing them with autonomy and ownership.
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