For centuries we have had a simple, top down view of leadership that reflected the nature of the world we operated in. Today, however, our working world is very different. If we are to have any hope of surviving, let alone thriving, we must upgrade our view of leadership.
As I am sure you know, we live in curious, challenging and exponentially changing times.
It’s a time where the UK working population is about 38 million, and according to Gallup (the American research-based global performance-management consulting company) only 6 million would answer “Yes” to the question “Are you engaged at work?”
This means that 32 million working people in the UK do not feel a strong positive connection to their work and are unlikely to be making a positive contribution! In fact, some 10 million people are “actively disengaged,” unhappy and unproductive at work and liable to spread negativity to co-workers. Last year, job satisfaction in the UK hit a two-year low.
Figures published by the Chartered Institute of Personal Development showed that almost one in four workers are looking to leave their jobs because of the failure of managers to engage and retain staff.
So is it any surprise then that stress, depression or anxiety account for over 11 million working days lost each year?
It is also a time in which only one in eight of the original Fortune 500 companies are still up and running – and these are continuing to drop like flies.
Not only that. New, unexpected competitors are emerging and taking away our customers. The largest accommodation provider owns no real estate, the largest taxi company owns no taxis, the largest phone company own no telco structure and the fastest growing banks have no actual money!
It’s a time when the majority of large corporations fail to achieve even modest growth in sales and revenue, despite having really detailed strategic plans with much higher targets. And in those same organisations, 95% of their employees are unaware of, or do not understand, its strategy.
So in all of this, what is it like trying to be a leader today?
Well, our expectations of leaders have never been higher and yet our tolerance of them has never been lower. Recently, two thirds of executives identified leadership development as their number-one concern.
We still can find fully committed, fully engaged, happy workers who bring all of themselves to their work, enjoy the ride and achieve fantastic results. Who are they? The small business owners, entrepreneurs who work in one or two employee companies. Who leads them, inspires them, motivates them, rewards and recognises them? Nobody! They lead themselves of course.
So what if we all saw ourselves as a personal company, regardless of whether we work for an organisation or for a small business?
What if each and every one of us spent time thinking about our own vision, mission, values, our own research and development, our own products and our own business development.
I believe we have to move away from the old version of leadership and management where the leader has the monopoly on information, knowledge and skill, where the leader is in control and holds all the cards, where the leader gives orders and motivates co-workers.
We need to move away from the manager being the motivator to the manager being the one who challenges every individual to develop their own leadership. Each person taking the responsibility for their own motivation and development.
When the co-worker becomes an entrepreneur and a supplier, the manager suddenly becomes a customer. When we see ourselves as suppliers in our own organisation, this creates a natural desire to help solve both the manager’s and the company’s problems and to see the needs of the organisation.
The right leadership creates an environment in which everyone unleashes the strong-willed entrepreneurial spirit within themselves and connects this energy to the company’s vision. That sweet spot when we grow as a human being and our business grows too – not at the cost of one or the other. So we can each live out our dreams and achieve fantastic results.
What does all this mean?
Our current approach to leadership, this hierarchical up/down view is no longer fit for purpose. We need to upgrade our view of leadership. In fact, we need to see leadership in 5 dimensions.
We need to lead ourselves, we need to be proactive suppliers to our bosses, to our peers and our teams and we need to lead in our relationships with our external partners, customers and suppliers. We need to see our bosses, our colleagues, our peers and our co-workers as our customers.
Everyone is a leader! It is a mind-set, not a role.