What goes into leading a modern business? The answer is, as always, more complicated than one would think. The most common image of a leader is the well-dressed executive oozing effortless charisma, and while people skills are certainly integral to leadership, there are other traits that are key to running a business. Leading today is perceived and handled very differently now compared to several decades ago; and as it has changed, it has also become more complex.
A big part of this new leadership movement is increased emphasis on the whole of the company. Whereas the old approach emphasized the leader’s vision at the expense of almost everything else, modern leadership involves a focus on followers as well and the cumulative experience that they bring to a company. Additionally, modern leaders are encouraged to not only use their expertise to guide a company, but to impart it onto their employees and empower them to become leaders themselves. Mentorship is much more of a collective experience, with team members teaching each other and forgoing traditional ideas of seniority for a mutual exchange of ideas.
On a similar note, the autocracy that has long since dominated corporate culture has lost much of its staying power. Instead of all decisions coming from the top, modern leadership now makes use of employee input when it comes to changing as a company. This is one of the hallmarks of a new culture in workplaces, with an increased emphasis on collaboration and experimenting with new ideas. Delegating responsibilities well is one of the best ways for a leader to help their company grow and trust in the competence of their team members.
Which brings us to the notion that the best leaders lead not through issuing commands, but by proving a strong example to those around them. When a leader is engaged and willing to work with employees on projects, they gain the respect of the company while giving others some measure of influence over the creative process.
Another facet of this employee-integrated approach is transparency. Often thrown around as a corporate buzzword, transparency nevertheless provides a solid basis for interacting with employees; modern leaders strive to be as clear as possible with team members are performing well. Nobody likes giving or receiving negative feedback, but when applied properly, it can lead to improvement without hurting the individual on the receiving end. Regardless of whether the information a leader provides is positive or negative, their input can give a team some much needed direction.
Interconnectedness seems to be the theme when it comes to modern leadership, something brought on by technological advances over the past few decades. The tools that allow leaders to communicate better with their team members have also has other impacts on how businesses are run. With the constant and open flow of information, company issues become hot button topics overnight. When a company is facing adversity, it is up to its leaders to take responsibility for its faults. This is not always a simple task, and it’s not simple about apologies, it’s about staying in tune with public opinion and proving willing to change course as needed.
For that matter, with business leaders facing increasing public scrutiny, it is important for them to not only be open with their actions, but to be considerate about what they say. Leaders have the potential to tap into a worldwide audience through technology, and as such, must be more in tune than ever of the consequences of their presence online. An authentic and caring leader can be an asset for a company’s brand, whereas an angry and selfish one can hurt it greatly.
Yes, it can be difficult to follow every rule of good leadership, and it is by no means an exact science, but awareness about the state of a leader’s company, industry, and country goes a long way in fostering trust and building meaningful relationships in and out of the office. Perspective is the key of modern leadership; a strong leader integrates a multitude of perspectives into his or her business and life.