As workplaces change it is necessary for the leaders of the future to do so as well; the dynamics between employee and employer are slowly shifting, and teams are no longer looking for a purely dictatorial leadership style. They now want to collaborate with their leaders and feel involved in decision making. As a result, leaders need to evolve their approach to match this new dynamic and better support their employees to perform at their maximum. But what are some of the things leaders need to develop in order to do this successfully?
Innovative thinking is about not just coming up with ‘outside the box’ solutions to problems, but also taking more time to really understand where the problem stems from and what the ultimate goal is. Understanding these two elements opens a whole world of new and creative thinking. When it comes to people management, thinking in a different way is essential. Leaders have to be open to new ideas and look beyond what they know or believe to be right; collaboration is, therefore, a key part of innovative thinking as you cannot create new and exciting ideas in a vacuum no matter how experienced a leader you are. Of course, the more innovative you are the higher the chances are of unexpected challenges occurring and leaders need to be able to manage these challenging situations while minimising the negative impact on the business or workforce. Achieving this will again require collaboration and the effective engagement of staff to successfully resolve any issues.
Trust is a pivotal aspect of effective leadership and management and is inherently linked with innovation. Trust between employer and employees and vice versa is obviously important, as is trust between individual employees and different departments. If managers can create a culture of trust it then enables staff to take risks and make mistakes without fear of reprisal, and this ultimately helps to drive innovation and push businesses forward.
Related to this is the need to actively demonstrate trust by putting the onus of responsibility on employees to take charge of their work. Those doing the work within a company should be encouraged to drive changes within the context of that work, and this responsibility is something employees are eager to obtain. Many people no longer want to have constant and explicit direction; instead they are seeking a more autonomous working environment where they work in partnership with their manager and are held accountable for the work they produce, rather than the time spent in the office. Leaders who recognise output driven measures of performance rather than judging according to hours put in show trust in employees, and this empowers them to manage their own work and time. However, some employees may feel daunted by the prospect of taking on more responsibility, even those who are excited by the idea may feel unsure how to handle the change, and this is where effective coaching skills will come in. Being able to work with your employees to manage changes and help them develop their skills and grow in their role, will empower them to feel more confident in taking charge, ultimately allowing them to perform at their peak.
As we move further into a new era of not only leaders, but the workforce as a whole, with growing amounts of flexible working, the rise of the gig economy, and a reliance on technology for communication, it is necessary to adapt to the changing times. One approach that is showing promise, is interchangeable leadership. Interchangeable leadership is a concept that really ties trust and innovation together in the workplace; the idea that leadership should be freely handed to those with the skills most suited to a particular situation. In many instances this isn’t necessarily the manager; it will be the subject matter experts who have the knowledge and skills to manage a particular situation in the best way. When people are given the opportunity to lead when it’s appropriate it not only helps develop their abilities, but establishes a more collaborative and cohesive team. However, for this to be an established practice within an organisation, individual employees need to feel comfortable managing situations and other people, and this may be an area requiring, as if you’re not used to it, leadership can be quite daunting. It’s therefore important not to just jump into something like interchangeable leadership without laying the groundwork.
Additionally, being able to inspire your employees to believe in themselves and want to take charge in their roles isn’t just about how you present yourself externally; you also have to work on developing drive and determination in yourself as a leader. This means getting excited about what you do, how you do it, and what upcoming developments within the business. This not only improves your own output and effectiveness, but also helps to energise your employees.