Business is not as usual.
Long gone are the days when managers could simply cascade goals, operate in top-down close-knit silos, and only worry about their team's impact on the department's P&L.
To add to an already expansive list of responsibilities, managers must now prepare themselves to lead amidst new disruptive digital business models, augmented workforces, and flattening organizational charts, according to Deloitte's 2019 Global Human Capital Trends survey.
With each of these trends comes new business challenges and definitions of effective leadership.
To ensure your relevance as a leader, it's critical that you grow in tandem with the evolution of the workplace.
Deloitte found these five abilities most critical for competent 21st-century leaders (in order of importance):
- Ability to lead through more complexity and ambiguity.
- Ability to lead through influence.
- Ability to manage on a remote basis.
- Ability to manage a workforce with a combination of humans and machines.
- Ability to lead more quickly.
Speaking of ambiguity; let me expand on the first three.
Ability to lead through more complexity and ambiguity.
Being a manager is more complicated now than ever before. It addition to being a technical expert in your respective field, you now have to choreograph the roles and responsibilities of your team, technology, and customers in a constantly changing market.
To cope, managers must learn to operate and act confidently despite unknown outcomes, be comfortable taking risks, and be able to assume responsibilities outside their wheelhouse.
You can't do it on your own. My first step would be to take an inventory of your team's skills, work, and responsibilities, implement frameworks to stabilize where possible, and leverage the team's strengths to handle new challenges. In my experience, collaboration is the key. It's counterintuitive, but to manage added complexity and ambiguity, managers have to relinquish some control.
Ability to lead through influence.
Flat organizational charts mean everyone has a lot of responsibility, exposure, and potential to make an impact. Titles are important, but one's influence, in my opinion, is more crucial to getting things done than fleeting bureaucratics.
To be an effective leader it takes more than the title, strong technical abilities, and financial know-how. The transition to leadership requires a complete transformation of thought. To gain influence as you gain power, you'll have to put other's interests ahead of your own and use your title to serve the greater good.
Ability to manage on a remote basis.
My organization has 450 employees spread across 48 different states, two continents, and four timezones. In more decentralized models, this vast footprint my not be hard to manage, but I actually like to know what my direct reports and colleagues are doing.
To lead and support a remote workforce and have centralized goals, managers have to rethink the way they interact with their teams. They have to be intentional about transparency, connecting on a regular basis, and adapting to employees work styles to ensure they remain productive despite the autonomy.
My team uses platforms like Slack, text, and Skype to keep open lines of communication, meet regularly to discuss goals, and set clear expectations to ensure everyone is on the same page.
Unfortunately, most let the distance get in the way of their communication and connection. Speaking from experience, a lack of attention will kill all things.
Times are changing, and it's time for leadership to change, too. These five skills from Deloitte are a great place to start before you find yourself out of alignment with your team and organization.