The Changing Landscape of Leadership

The Shift in Leadership Styles Away from MALE to FEMALE “Energies”

There is a shift occurring in the area of modern-day leadership models. This shift is being driven by the fact that the modern worker no longer operates best while working under the constraints of the typical Org Chart business model. Since virtually all of our companies are designed to use the Org Chart as the primary driver of how the company operates this situation naturally causes a problem.

The 21st-century workforce, and that includes people of all ages, is comprised of workers who function best when they can network and collaborate with colleagues to accomplish their tasks and responsibilities. But our organizations are not designed to accommodate people working outside of the parameters of the Org Chart.

Org Charts are comprised of very linear and “organized” silos, departments and policies and procedures designed to insure predictability and repetition. They use a command and control, top-down leadership style of management and power and authority is pooled and is limited to a select few. Org Charts were originally established to run organizations operating in an industrial age economy. They were effective designs for those times, but we no longer live or work in an industrial age economy. The advent of technology and networks has accelerated the rate of speed in which our world spins such that its centrifugal force is causing the seams of our Org Charts to begin to pop and the people working in them to fizzle!

The 21st-century business environment is one that moves, morphs, shifts and changes so quickly that the Org Chart, and the restrictions it imposes, has become a liability to your organization. To have a company in which the creativity, innovation and authorities are limited to a few and come from the top down is a death sentence in the modern world.

The world and its workforce now function as a series of human networks collaborating with one another. This creates a bit of a problem in that while the workforce may function best as a network Org Charts are not very hospitable to them. So an organizational tension begins to grow between how the workforce best functions and the need to function within the Org Chart.

This means that we need to begin to adapt and to adopt new ways of operating our organizations to embrace the fact that networks now rule the world and begin rejecting the thought that we can control our environment. We can’t control our environment, and frankly, we never could. But we can become very adept at understanding it, anticipating its changes and getting ahead of its curves to take advantage of the changes that constantly occur.

But in order to do so, we must be willing to give up our comfort with the Org Chart model and begin to explore the emerging organizational designs which are coming over the horizon. (More on this later in the article.)

This unfolding scenario begins to immediately challenge us, as leaders, to figure out how to lead people who work best through networking, collaborating and innovating yet who are forced to operate within the restrictions of an Org Chart.

It should be noted that this phenomenon is not just affecting larger organizations. It is impacting every business that has employees.

MALE vs FEMALE Leadership Models

When we employ a top down, command and control organizational model and a leadership style which is very linear and restrictive we are employing MALE energy. On the other hand employing a design that encourages people to connect, communicate, collaborate and to share authorities and responsibilities reflects a FEMALE energy.

Now that we have already shifted from an Industrial Age/Org Chart world into a highly technical networked world it is not only imperative that we shift our organizational designs but more important is that we must shift our leadership styles immediately.

In fact we cannot change how we are organized until we change how we lead.

While “telling”, “pushing” and “rote repetition” worked for a slower world and a more compliant workforce today we must evolve into leaders who understand that the modern worker in the modern world accomplishes tasks best when they can contribute, share, engage and participate outside of the restraints of the typical Org Chart. Org Charts are slow and restrictive while your workforce is very fast, innovative and impatient.

But first you must know that the workforce isn’t waiting for us to make the necessary changes. They are taking much of this into their own hands. (Like I said, they are impatient). For instance, The McKinsey Group has found that as much as 67% of the work accomplished in an organization is done through informal networks created by dedicated employees as a way to work around the unnecessary restrictions and delays imposed by out of date Org Charts.

This means that the shift away from the old way to the new way is already occurring and your challenge is now to catch up to it and get ahead of it. Then you must learn how to maximize your ability to harness the energy and productivity of these powerful and fertile networks.

But inorder to do this you first have to give up something old: Command and control and centralized power and circles of influence. (MALE) Then you must to be willing to embrace something new: A flatter hierarchy, granting more freedom, distributing responsibilities and being open to more listening and connecting. (FEMALE)

Now I am not a “touchy feely” New Ager but I am a realist. And the facts are this:

1. We have already shifted from the industrial age into the networked age.

2. We are living in a time when people insist upon communicating and networking with others to problem solve and innovate.

3. There is no going back.

4. We must adapt and adopt more openness and nurture more in our organizations

What Next?

Now don’t get me wrong I am not saying that all males will soon become obsolete and that women will rule the world; although more will and that is a good thing.

What I am saying is that the successful leaders in the 21st century will be those who can evolve past the traditional methods of command and control leadership and embrace the open, collaborative, shared responsibility models necessary to succeed in today’s world. Those who can take on this more balanced approach to leadership will excel.

To get started on this path I suggest taking a look at two books which are excellent primers for those interested in first understanding informal networks and then how to better engage people so that you begin to lead by listening.

The first book is Mobilizing Minds: Creating Wealth and Talent in the 21st Century Organization. This book does an excellent job at defining informal networks and describing their nuances as well as how to interact with them. It also details the undeniable business cases for why you must engage the informal networks in your organization.

There are portions of this book that get pretty heady because the authors use examples taken from very large corporations. But you can just skip past some of that stuff and still get what you need and more.

The next book is called Just Listen: Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone. This book was written by Mark Goulston, MD. Mark is a psychiatrist, a business coach to high-level CEO’s and he trains FBI hostage negotiators in the skills necessary to communicate with people on the edge of disaster. His book teaches many things but the most relevant to this article is the lesson that leading is not about telling or pushing but that it is first about listening and connecting. He demonstrates that once you connect with people they will follow you. Then as long as you continue to engage them with integrity and honesty they will continue to follow you on their own accord.

Mark also happened to be in Rhode Island earlier this month to give a presentation to approximately 75 leading Rhode Island CEO’s and business owners which I attended and his talk was riveting because his techniques are as effective as they are intuitive.

To get additional information on these topics you can feel free to go to my website. I have many free articles on the subject of the evolution of leadership and the dynamics of informal networks in the workplace. Go to www.capabilityaccelerators.com and click on the “Resources” section. You will find a variety of articles and white papers which can assist you along your path.

You can also take matters in your own hands immediately by asking your workforce some simple questions about how things are going in your organization. Give them a forum to talk about what works and what doesn’t work in your organization from their point of view. I must warn you to not ask them if you really don’t want to know. They will pick up on that energy and will know you that you aren’t really interested. But if really you do want to know, they will pick up on that too and they will share. You may have to work at creating a safe zone for them so they feel comfortable. You may have to nurture the environment and encourage them to participate but once you do, they will and you all will win.

However, if you do go that far, you must show some follow through otherwise you will lose credibility with them.

So that is what I mean when I talk about how the leadership style of the 21st century is shifting from MALE to FEMALE energy.

We get the most out of our work relationships when we are listening, engaging and inviting our workers to participate as opposed to telling them so much what to do and how to do it.

Nurture them and you will harvest much fruit and many profits. Life will become easier and more enjoyable too.

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