Saturday, November 28, 2009

Leadership: What is the new model for the future?

While growing up, I always looked forward to the debut of new cars because the designs would change every year.  However the European models would not change drastically.  Unlike the US manufacturers, they would evolve over a few years whether it be design, safety enhancements or the latest gadgets.

It appears to me that leadership has taken on some of those traits.  I searched Amazon Books and found approximately 375,000 titles listed on the subject of leadership.  Did the great leaders of yesteryear have to update their skills yearly with the publication of a new book.
On Linked IN you see articles with various techniques of 3,5, or 10 ways to become a better leader.  Has leadership competencies changed that much?  Would world class leaders such as Vince Lombardi, Colin Powell, Tom Peters and others who are still being quoted today change their methods in today's business environment?  To be a leader, one thing is certain, you must have followers.  You must have people that believe in you.  You must have people that know you have their best interest at heart.  You must have people that trust you.

I am afraid that due to the climate in the workforce today will force leaders to rethink the leadership equation.  With all the workers that are seeking employment, the workforce that is still in place: overworked and aware that so many of their coworkers were let go, has changed the way workers now look at leaders.  Today's challenging times cries out of for more effective leadership.  The brand that your companies cultivated over the successful years now is showing signs of wear.  There is a crack in the wall and this one will not be pretty once everything settles.

One of the best ways for leaders to improve is to work on improving themselves. It is as simple as leading by example.  Are you as a leader walking the walk.  Are you setting the example by saying do as I say not as I do. Remember, all of your workers at all level are watching.  How often have you just said "thank you" or "I appreciate the work you do." This does not only apply to the designated leaders but all the way down the pyramid.  From the C-Suite to the supervisor, every leader today is under the microscope.

In order for companies to be successful in the future, it behooves everyone to step up their game.  To begin the process, solicit feedback from your people as to how you can improve your leadership skills.  Think of the message that you would send.  Think of the effect that you would have on your direct reports when they see that you are trying to improve.  One results is that your feedback to them would make more of a statement if you also are seeking their feedback on your effectiveness.   You might be surprised at the answers.  A good leader wants their people to grow and develop on the job.  That is what engagement is all about.  If leaders set the proper example, the people around them for the most part will do the same.

The Center for Creative Leadership released a study called the Leadership Gap which looks at the leadership model today vs the leadership model of the future.  The study says that the skill set for leaders has changed from 5/10 years ago.  Henry Mintzberg writing in Business Week says that "too many so-called leaders fancy themselves above the messy, but crucial, work of managing".  The Sunday New York Times has created a section called "The Corner Office" that profiles a new breed of leadership and management from the C-Suite.  Recent leaders that have been recently profiled are Susan Lyne, chief executive of Gilt Groupe and former CEO of Martha Stewart Living (my former employer as VP Human Resources/OD) who talks about giving employees the opportunity of make a half-hour appointment with her to "talk".  Jeffrey Katzenberg another profiled CEO talks about what he learned from being publicly fired from Disney and how it transformed his leadership style.  It is a must read for anyone that is interested in working on their leadership skills.

Whether you buy one of the books from Amazon or read the various numerical formulas to translate your leadership style, all leaders must look within themselves to find their center and work to become better leaders.  The model has changed and leaders must tweak, transform and restructure their style.  If you as a leader have been lucky, keep on doing what you are doing, albeit more amplified.  Your employees are waiting.  Ceaser Millan from the "Dog Whisperer" has a favorite saying, "I don't train dogs, I train the owners".  If the leaders exhibit the proper leadership behavior, the employees will follow.

"Ultimately, our actions will say much more to employees about our values and our leadership skills than our words ever can. If our actions are wise, no one will care if the words on the wall are not perfect". ...Marshall Goldsmith.

My comment is two questions and a comment that can begin the process to become an effective leader.  How am I doing? What can I do to improve as a leader?  Thank You!!!!!


  1. Ron, The questions that you pose are great ways for us to reflect as well as committed to becoming effective leaders. To piggy back on your post one should also ask themselves, am I a Managers or Leaders. Managers direct the activities of the process and or work functions. Leaders inspire, encourage and empower their employees to perform those activities at optimal levels.

    Excellent reference to cultural icons!

    Happy Holidays

    Keith Vincent
    Relationship Manager
    The Anstad Group

  2. Yes, today's model leader needs to be certain her/his office door is open, that s/he walks and talks to employees, and is constantly creating opportunities for conversation.

    I very much enjoyed reading your post.

    Eileen Weisman
    President, The W Group

  3. Ron,

    Just stepped into the office on Monday morning and read your terrific article. Nice inspirational piece that is needed to keep pace with the uncertainty in today's economy and our market place as a chauffeured transportation provider.

    Thanks Again,

    Mark Stewart
    Operations Manager
    Blue Moon Limousine