Part 1 – Are Leaders Born or Made?
Part 2 – What Characterizes Good Leadership Skills?
Part 3 – How to Foster Leadership Self-Awareness
Future of Leadership
One leading school of thought about the future direction of leadership may surprise you, because it revolves around the notion that a leader should have both masculine and feminine traits. From a leadership capability perspective, it’s a best of both worlds scenario.
Proponents of this theory point to studies which have shown that companies with gender-diverse boards outperform their strictly male counterparts.
They also bring up Abraham Lincoln, who is said to have possessed this particular combination of traits – that is, merging masculine attributes like strength of purpose and tenacity with feminine ones such as empathy, openness, and the willingness to nurture others. Lincoln scholars claim these qualities were central to his practice of great leadership.
On another-but-related front, a consumer survey of 64,000 people in 13 countries, conducted by John Gerzema (pronounced ger-sema), a New York Times best-selling author and well-known corporate consultant, revealed that two-thirds believed the world would be a better place if men thought more like women.
The survey also asked them to characterize 125 human traits as male, female, or neutral; and then indicate which were most desirable for modern leaders.
At the top of the list were:
- Empathy: Being sensitive to the thoughts and feelings of others.
- Vulnerability: Owning up to one’s limitations and asking for help.
- Humility: Seeking to serve others and to share credit.
- Inclusiveness: Soliciting and listening to many voices.
- Generosity: Being liberal with time, contacts, advice and support.
- Balance: Giving life, as well as work, its due.
- Patience: Taking a long-term view.
All of these, along with many other top traits, were identified by the respondents as feminine.
But let’s be clear, we’re not talking about changing who you are as a person; rather, we’re talking about being aware of, and informed by, this broader range of leadership attributes. Again we can turn to Lincoln as an example. Though he was decidedly gritty, scholars also talk of his humility, inclusiveness, generosity and empathy. They say he made time for people of all stations who approached him with their troubles.
What makes these observations interesting, claim the experts, especially now, has to do with the way leadership has evolved – and is evolving – to improve effectiveness. They use the following timeline to illustrate the path of this progression.
As a point of departure, it starts with the Command-and-Control style through roughly the 1980’s. Also referred to as the Age of Autocracy, it’s when leaders like Oracle’s Larry Ellison models himself on samurai as he attacks competitors and pushes employees to the limit. There’s also Michael Eisner, who drives up Disney’s stock price while driving employees crazy with his micro-management.
The next stage is Empower-and-Track, in the 1990’s to mid-2000’s. It’s referred to as the Age of Empowerment. Howard Schultz’s expansion plans for Starbucks, for instance, relied on store-level employees making decisions based on knowledge of their regions. Meg Whitman took over eBay, a company whose business model is all about autonomy. It required her to trust people while insisting on integrity.
The next stage, which happens to be at the present time, is Connect-and-Nurture. Not too surprisingly dubbed the Age of Nurture, Whole Foods’s John Mackey contributes $100,000 annually to a fund for workers with personal struggles. Tony Hsieh (pronounced Shay) enshrines honesty, humility, and weirdness among Zappos’s core values.
The Holy Grail in business today, wrote Leigh Buchanan, an editor-at-large for Inc. magazine, is engagement: employees’ energy, enthusiasm, and commitment to their companies. She says numerous studies show that engagement has a powerful effect not only on productivity but also on profitability and customer metrics.
The most recent Towers Watson Global Workforce Study suggests that a key ingredient to engagement is an employer who “promotes physical, emotional, and social well-being.”
WorldBlu’s list of the “most democratic companies,” those who score high for cultivating engagement, shines the spotlight on Zappos, New Belgium Brewing and Great Harvest Bread.
Another related idea comes from Adam Grant, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business. He authored a book about the power of generosity titled, “Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success.”
Professor Grant has assembled volumes of research on this subject and has conducted many studies himself, including one that showed salespeople who feel strongly about benefiting others generated 50 percent more revenue than their less-caring counterparts.
When leaders are generous with their time and support, says Grant, that behavior will “cascade down levels and across regions of an organization. And the frequency and amount of helping and knowledge sharing among employees is a very important driver of lots of organizational performance metrics, from profitability and productivity to retention to customer satisfaction.”
He contends that generosity is the ultimate silo destroyer. CEO’s who model it inspire that most elusive of goals: a work force in which everyone develops everyone else.
You might notice that these human attributes, which support the leadership process as discussed in part 3, cannot be measured by mathematical formulas. Remember the “it” factor from part 1? These traits are a key component of the “it” factor for carrying out the modern leadership role.
John Gerzema believes even CEOs with aggressive growth strategies, a traditionally masculine trait, can lead with feminine values. So long as founders are intent on building companies that endure, and that always pay back to the people in and around them, these seemingly disparate traits are equally valuable and entirely complementary.
He says, “It’s not about building bigger companies but about serving something bigger. There’s so much cynicism that people are out for short-term gain. Leadership today is about taking people into a better future. That’s a long trip.”
For our part here at marketing-strategy-management.com, we believe it takes a well-rounded individual to nurture the one and only desirable outcome of the four possible leadership outcomes discussed in part 3.
It’s called a win-win scenario.
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