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Forget Command and Control--Try Connect and Inspire

Without open, inclusive, collaborative leadership, innovation simply can't thrive.

More than 60% of leaders describe their own leadership style as either "command and control" or "old school hierarchal." But highly hierarchal leaders who manage by dictating, demanding and doing things themselves are increasingly finding themselves facing uncomfortable headwinds.

Not only are employees--especially Gen Ys, who make up more of the workforce than Boomers do today--pushing back in new and profound ways, voting with their feet and leaving for other managers and companies, but businesses are also suffering.

Companies that can't attract and retain the best young talent find it harder to connect with the demographic externally--something increasingly critical to many businesses. The complex business challenges and the environment require broad thinking to generate new ideas and innovation.

Without open, inclusive, collaborative leadership, innovation simply can't thrive.

While there are certainly things leaders themselves can do to adapt their leadership style, individual change is not enough. We need to shift not only individual leaders but entire large organizations away from a culture of command and control to a more inclusive one that requires coordinated, sustained attention and commitment.

Some organizations and particularly professional service firms have already started, as indicated by a recent panel discussion I was a part of at the Milken Global Conference. They are striving to create legions of more inclusive, open, less hierarchal leaders who can connect to employees and clients, and inspire commitment and engagement both inside and outside of their organizations.

The top professional service firms have been especially forward looking in this regard. They have realized they can't service their clients effectively or get the best solutions without diverse teams. That requires every employee and leader to leverage the power of difference in real ways, every day, in everything they do. This is certainly true of Deloitte, where I've just joined as an executive advisor.

GE is an example of a large, global organization putting considerable resources into ensuring the company connects with and inspires a new generation of talented and diverse employees who seek out companies committed to advanced leadership values. GE looks to incoming future leaders by attracting a global, multi-generational workforce who can help foster innovation by bringing diverse thinking to every challenge. To foster the best ideas and leveraging great talent in new ways, GE has also opened up the innovation pipeline beyond the traditional boundaries of company walls. The company recently implemented an open-source approach to innovation with the worldwide engineering community via social media, combining creative spark and global scale to help solve key business problems and in the process grow brand loyalty and a culture of inclusion.

In my work over the last few years and now through my collaboration with Deloitte Consulting LLC, I'm seeing increasing numbers of executive leaders who realize that this inclusive leadership style confers competitive advantage in the market, both in getting the right talent and winning competitive business. The ability of organizations to build a deep bench of twenty-first-century leaders who demonstrate this kind of inclusive leadership requires a coordinated, systematic, and focused effort across the whole talent management and leadership development agenda. Unless leaders learn how to effectively manage people in this new open, collaborative, nurturing and inspirational way, they may find themselves perpetually losing the best people and their business advantages in the process.

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