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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Today's Leadership Challenge

Let me first say the obvious, a lot of things have changed in the way people behave over the past few years. Acquisition of knowledge have never been so much cheaper and easier. Managers even those with MA degrees, cannot claim that they are more knowledgeable than their subordinates. Someone opined to me that the use of the term subordinate does not aptly describe the manager's staff anymore and so does the term superior to describe the boss, well because they're not necessarily superior. Another change, lifetime employment is practically no more. Attrition rates are higher and are expected to go higher as people's desire (and in some cases capabilities) for higher responsibilities outpace the opportunities that open up in their current organization. More knowledgeable workers are now more particular about the people they report to. Some of the candidates I interviewed reported that they left or want to leave their current employer because they think they don't need to endure their bosses. Those who don't realize that now, either as a staff or as boss eventually will. The Internet created massive fora for people to talk about their employers in ways that can build or damage companies' reputation. If you want proof of this, check this link. If you clicked it, that is just a sampling of what people say about the company they worked for. In many other fora, people are hanging huge warning signs that practically say don't work for this employer.
Attracting and retaining talents is now even more challenging and if you as a leader don't play your cards right, your company will serve as a poaching ground for your remaining talents and a compost pit for non talents. That definitely is not the best place to be in this highly challenging competitive world of work.

What to do? Among other things, the way leaders lead play a vital part in the way corporate climate is built, hence morale and hence performance and talent retention. So, how should leaders lead now? My recommendation is for managers to learn the ways of King Arthur to his knights of the round table. Remember first among equals? It's funny how we have to go back in time to respond to today's leadership challenge. You see, King Arthur's style was ahead of his time. It was a novelty then and the funnier thing is that many still think it's a novelty now, no, a fairy tale.

Let me get a little bit less metaphorical here. These are the leadership behaviors that I believe that today's leaders and managers need to manifest:

TALENT MANAGEMENT- Yes, from hiring the right talents, developing their capabilities to perform, rewarding good performance and yes, up to firing non performers, because believe you me, many managers still don't know how.

HOW NOT TO BE A JERK - 'The boss from hell" style had its time but is now so grossly outdated, it's ancient! Many of the people we work with as leaders and managers are most likely on their way to the top. Some will even overtake us and then take over. It's not a sad reality it's the hope for the future. One of our important job now is to facilitate their journey from where they are to where they ought to be considering their talents, their capabilities. Only mediocre people will allow their mediocre boss to prevent them from growing. If that is the case, maybe they deserve each other. Today's leaders should act more like coaches preparing their team for the next big fight. (What can I say, I love metaphors!)

BE OPEN TO OTHERS - Today's managers should now see their team as a rich source of information and creative ideas. There is no better manifestation of trust, respect and appreciation of our team members than to listen and consider their ideas, experiences and feelings. If you are a manager and you think that trust, respect and appreciation are mushy stuffs that won't help you make the numbers, you are gravely mistaken.

Today's leaders should have better personal relationship with their team members and yet not allow this relationship hamper them from addressing performance issues and taking out mediocrity.

Hitting targets fall in the realm of management, today's great leaders are all about achieving full potential. Leaders are once again team coaches who constantly assess the situation and adjust team strategies based on what she knows is the team's capability to play in that particular event. I mean why force a strategy that will expose your team's weakness when you can capitalize on their strengths?

Lastly, The ability to execute.. Six Sigma and Management Gurus Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan wrote a book entitled "Execution, the discipline of getting things done". Do yourself and your team a favor by reading that book actually do something about the way you lead. Since we are in the topics of reading books. I also recommend Marcus Buckingham's Series that start with "First, break all the rules", also Patrick Lencioni's books. I don't get any commission from any of these guys, mind you. I personally believe that in order for us to succeed as today's leader's we better start listening to what they have to say.


  1. I do agree that bosses have a huge impact on morale, but I think the concept of morale and how bosses impact it is much more complex than how one is treated. Not, that being treated poorly is ever excusable. Morale has more to do with individual and group alignment with organization mission - well, my two cents, anyway.

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  3. @Lieutenant Raymond E. Foster, LAPD (ret.), MPA

    I completely agree with you. Morale is affected by people's alignment with the organization's mission. Getting alignment is one leadership challenge that that I was not able to emphasize enough in this post. Thanks for contributing.


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