Are you an Old School Leader?

I recently was working with a client discussing an issue that they were having with internal politics inside their organisation.  When described what was occurring it was very clear that a number of the Senior Leaders were playing the “old school” game of trying to keep information from others.  When the client analysed why they were doing this they realised that these leaders were brought up in the age of the 1980’s & 1990’s and have the belief if you are a Manager you need to keep ideas and communication close to your chest and not share it.

This was one approach that a Manager could get away with during the 1980’s & 1990’s because the pace of business and communication was also ‘old school.’  We did not have the real-time Internet, email, social media and SMS that allows people to share information and take action faster.

In our conversation, I asked which leaders she admired.  Without having to think she replied, “the leaders that inspire, include and challenge me to perform at a higher level than I even think I can.”  This is a common response that I receive from many people.  They want to be supported, challenged, stretched and mentored by their leaders so they can achieve and succeed at a higher level.  The issue is that we still have too many “old school” leaders that are playing an analog game in a digital world.  This is resulting in many organisations losing their effectiveness, along with their great staff and eventually losing their market share, or for others their existence.
How Not to Get Stuck as an Old School Leader:

  1. Ask Questions to Understand. Rather than assuming that you know everything and keeping information to yourself, take the time to ask lots of questions.  Do this to understand the different viewpoints, concerns, challenges, and successes of your people.    Often I have found that a leader just taking the time to ask the opinion of their people, the relationship gets stronger because they show that they care and value their perspective.
  2. Keep An Open Mind & Keep Learning.  I remember working with a very successful multimillionaire businessman that was in his 70’s.  Whilst I was facilitating a group of other very successful leaders I noticed he continually took out a small notebook and was writing things down.  During one of the breaks, I asked him how he was finding the session that I was leading.  “Great”  he responded and he showed me all of the notes he had taken from the session that I was running.  Although he was toward the end of his career and very successful already, he was continually learning.
  3. Mentor & Stretch Your People. Many leaders do not take the time to mentor their staff.  They often use the excuse of being “too busy.”  The leaders that truly inspire and motivate their people are the ones that take the time to check in and mentor in 1:1 situations.  Look for opportunities to share insights and wisdom and ask questions that stretch or challenge how your people view a situation.  Make sure that you stretch them in a way that is supportive, not putting them down like an “old school” leader would to make themselves feel superior.

In this age of disruption, businesses can’t afford to have “old school” leaders.  The pace of change, competition, technological shifts and staff expectations all demand more of a leader.  Make the choice to step up, be the leader that others admire, respect and would walk over cut glass for.