The Leader’s Role in today’s Changing Environment

ledership roles
HI

Human Intelligent (HI) Workplace
Helping Leaders Help Themselves

June 13, 2015

Change your thoughts and you change your world.

Norman Vincent Peale

“Tomorrow’s Companies will need to have the brains of a Business School Graduate and the heart of a Social Worker.” Thomas Friedman

 The Leader Factor

There is a perfect storm brewing globally and nationally with workplace implications particularly over the next decade and beyond. It consists of a variety of factors that are varied, increasing in pace, and importance over time. Due to these various factors, it might appear overwhelming to address and yet they are factors that organizations need to address because they are not going away and will be the difference between success and sustainability or demise of an organization or evolution of an industry or enterprise.

I have alluded to the following trends in previous posts that have implications for organizations and in turn for leaders at all levels in organizations. As society continues to age, demographics also continue to change. The minority and majority terms will evolve in the 21st century particularly in the U.S. We have an increasing aging workforce around the world. The U.S. has presently four ages in the workforce. Education will increasingly become more important as a higher education will be needed for the higher-level skills needed in today and the future workplace. Technology continues and will continue to grow and change at exponential levels. Employee engagement continues to gain importance and increasing (especially during these changing and tough economic times). Change remains constant, as organizations need to adapt to the ever-changing environment and to stay ahead of their competitors. Leadership and leadership development will increasingly become fundamental for the success of organizations.

All of these trends and changes are happening at the same time while organizations work to stay ahead of their competitors. Globalization and technology are two that are forcing organizations to step back and rethink how they will move forward in these very fast and changing times. If society should have learned something by now, especially in the early stages of the 21st century, is that we can no longer say that something will not happen. Because since 2000 forward, many things have occurred in society, with technology, and globally that we probably had not considered even in the late 20th century.

Organizations and their leadership teams (at all levels) will need to in addition to ensure they are developing their organizational strategy they will also need to create a human capital strategy that enables a culture that supports these changes and positions them for success. Organizations that take their eye off of any one of these do so at their own risk. The challenge and opportunity is for and how organizations address and work through this perfect storm.

One of the most important factors to keep in mind is the important role of the LEADER in this ever increasingly changing environment. Because as we know, employees don’t leave organizations, they leave managers. By LEADER I mean the following:

Learning

Engagement

Adapting

Development

Environmentalist

Relationships

 Learning will be a continuous need in organizations and amongst the workforce.   This particular focus here is from a macro-organizational perspective. As technology continues to change at a rapid pace, the workforce changes and gets more diverse, the global environment continues to be a growing consideration; this requires organizations and in turn their workforce to be part of an ongoing learning environment.

Engagement will be key for organizational success. There is enough research and anecdotal stories highlighting the business imperatives for this area along with consulting firms offering organizations support in how to create an engaging workplace. From the CEO to the front line supervisor, the environment they create is important to enabling an engaged workforce.

Organizations cannot afford if they are to be successful to only focus on their top talent and poor performers at the expense of the rest of the workforce. Both the top and bottom portions represent only 20% of the organization. Leaders must engage their entire workforce for organizational success. Leaders play a large responsibility in creating an engaging environment. As much as some might try to align this with Human Resources or as a touchy-feely issue, it is a lot more. It is an organizational issue with leadership playing a very important role.

 Adapting to the constantly and quick changing scenarios will be something that leaders will need to create through a supporting environment for their workforce. They will have to ensure that there are processes, a systemic and comprehensive approach, and in turn a workforce that is able and willing to adapt and remain nimble and flexible in a demanding and changing world.

Development is something that leaders will need to ensure their workforce gets plenty of, as the changing needs will require it. This focus is from a micro or individual perspective. Not only does this meet the ongoing development needs due to constant change; like technology and a growing diverse workforce, among others; it also meets a fundamental employee need to feeling valued and relevant. With the increasing change of everything, from technology, processes, customer experience and expectations, just-in-time demands, newer needed skills, access to all sort of information via the internet, this makes on-going development a key requirement for today and in the 21st century.

Environmentalist has two perspectives in it. It has a macro and micro perspective. A macro view of the environmentalist is for the organization through its leadership to really assess what is coming into its workforce. How prepared is this workforce and what role is the educational system playing in this or not. I believe this is truly assess, organizations will want to look at some alternative approaches for working with the educational system so they are truly providing the needed workforce going forward. There needs to be some form of macro-strategic consortium that includes a partnership with corporate entities, educational system, and the government to truly assess what are needs of the future will be and how the educational system is presently operating in preparing our workforce for that future. In essence addressing the “elephant in the room” of how the educational system needs to reinvent itself (not a minor change, but a major transformation) in order to be more efficient, effective, and truly be providing what the customer (corporations and organizations) will need in its future workforce.

Culture can be defined as the unwritten rules and behaviors that members of a dept./organization have come to understand, accept, and live by. While all members of a dept./organization accept or adapt to a given culture, the department leader plays a very important role in enabling the culture, whether good or dysfunctional. They in essence create the backdrop that their workforce will adapt to.

Relationships will be very important for leaders and employees. How leaders manage those relationships, whether employees are virtual or co-located with them; will lead to employee engagement, to a healthy environment, and to one that will either be productive and successful or fail in their department mission.

There is plenty of research supporting the leadership concept of leader-employee exchange (LMX) or leader-employee relationships that when managed effectively lead to higher trust, increase retention, employee loyalty, employee morale, job satisfaction, productivity, and in turn customer satisfaction. So in order to achieve the bottom line results and business objectives that is why organizations exist, leaders will need to ensure that they are paying attention to the relationships they have with their employees.

Leaders will continue to be tremendously important in todays’ and tomorrows’ organizations. And by this I mean “true leaders” and not just in title only. I have found that we sometimes diminish the importance and relevancy of effective leadership by labeling everyone (including the ineffective ones) with the title of leader. How they treat their workers will serve as a key ingredient to the success of their organizations. As Drucker has said, “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.” It will take both of these roles during this perfect storm.

The leader’s success is dependent on their employees/team being successful. How they approach their role of being the boss – irrespective of level, 1st line, mid-level, or executive and what they believe of the employee’s role, will create a department or organizational and environment and culture. If they believe their role is of being the boss, the ultimate decision maker who everyone comes to due to their position – they will then create one culture that is one of an outdated mode of thinking and operating.

The world, the U.S., and the workplace is changing as we know it. This has major implications for leaders and their workforce. How they adapt and proactively engage in these changes will position organizations and their workforce for success (or not).

 The End, no really The Beginning

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