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3 New Realities of Leadership- Accept or Be Doomed to Struggle

January 23, 2012

The information age peppers us with constant data and stimulation. We now know in a nanosecond about an earthquake in Turkey, the state of the global economy and who is winning on Dancing With the Stars.

As leaders (we are all leaders regardless of our title at work) we are living and working in an unprecedented time of opportunity. We have the opportunity to choose how we are going to navigate forward and to become more innovative and creative. In order to be more innovative and creative we have to willing to accept three new realities in leadership or we risk being doomed to struggle, depression and lack of success.

The three new realities that leaders need to accept are:

New Reality #1- We are never ever going back to a workplace where everyone shows up at the same time, where everyone breaks their backs to get the work done and performance reviews were based on ‘time on job’ versus performance.

The new reality is that with technology and with intergenerational workplaces we no longer have to deliver work the way we have in the post industrial era. In the 80?s and 90?s the workplace was less about balance and more about productivity- except here is the irony- we weren’t that productive because there were no protocols in place for life balance!

It is time to get more creative and innovative around setting up work structures that support where people are in their life ‘stage’. People in their 20?s will work hard and for long hours BUT they also will call in to go skiing. People in their 30?s to late 40?s will commit to a project BUT they will also leave at 3:00 to pick their kids up from school and be available by their Blackberry or Iphone.People in their 50?s to 60?s will work hard BUT need to take their holidays and down time or switch to contract/project work.

Rather than fight this new reality- companies need to embrace it, adapt to it and watch their productivity and profits soar.

New Reality #2- The workplace is being democratized- it is less about hierarchy and more about collaboration. This means the ‘balancing of egos’ so that the focus is on the ‘good for all’ versus serving a select few. A good example of this is Best Buy and an initiative they have called Tag Trade where everyone in the company working on a project submits their project to Tag Trade and teammates evaluate and rate the project and help to determine the success of the project with their input.

As leaders there are times where we need to make a definitive stand BUT more and more teams are responding more quickly and with more acceptance of change when they have had a chance to provide input, ask questions and participate in strategic direction.

New Reality #3- Power is being shifted to people. With the influx of social media more and more power is being given to people. Whereas in the past we could perhaps quietly announce a change or direction and hope that people wouldn’t notice the new reality is that information is shared and rippled out so quickly. We just have to look at what is going on around the globe as demonstrated with the economic sit ins as one example.

As leaders every step we take is being shared via Twitter, Facebook, You Tube and Google+ just to name a few. Our decisions are being discussed, rated and shared. This can be frightening or exhilarating and it depends on how you look at it.

A balanced leader who has done a lot of inner reflection on their need to adapt, change and accept will breeze through this new reality. A leader whose skills and values are rooted in how it used to be will definitely be challenged and struggle with the attitudes and realities of the power of social media and the people.

These three new realities are not going away- they are here to stay. As a leader the best thing to do is accept, change or leave. This may sound harsh but if you cannot accept the new realities then you are hindering progress for your company but also for yourself, if you are not willing to change then you are preventing progress as well and finally if you find yourself unwilling to accept or change then it may well be time to leave.

In this time of transformation we are going to continue to see more new realities come at us quite rapidly. Our level of self awareness and accountability will determine how well we merge with the future realities before us.

Cheryl Cran, CSP is a leadership & generations expert, the author of 4 books including: “101 Ways to Make Generations X, Y and Zoomers Happy at Work” and her soon to be released, “Up Next- Gen X- 29 Ways Gen X Are Changing the Future of the Workplace”.

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