- Management styles have changed very little since the late 1700s, but the world of work is changing fast, and management needs to keep up.
- In today’s work climate, leadership is practically anything anyone wants to say it is.
- Leadership no longer saves a company or defines a movement. Creating the culture is now a shared responsibility.
It’s easy to blame the person at the top. Everyone wants to take shots at authority figures, so why pay attention to such complaints? Leadership development has typically focused on making the individual, not the team as a whole, better. All the training, educating, and seminaring we’ve done has led to an abundance of autocratic individuals who see themselves as saviors. They didn’t do this by themselves; we helped. Under the old model, the team exists, at least in the leader’s mind, to help the boss get ahead, to increase production, maximize profit, and make the leader look better.
Jim Clifton, chairman and CEO of Gallup and author of The Coming Jobs War, wrote, “What the whole world wants is a good job, and we are failing to deliver it… This means human development is failing, too. Most [individuals] are coming to work with great enthusiasm, but the old management practices — forms, gaps, and annual reviews — grind the life out of them.” Management styles, which have changed very little since the late 1700s, are due to evolve with the changing face of business. The world of work is changing fast, and management needs to follow.
A true leader goes beyond mere titles and does more than fulfill a role. Leadership is a responsibility shared by everyone that involves working with the right people to identify their strengths and help develop them for the organization’s betterment. Doing this job well takes emotional capital, which is one reason why many bosses are so bad at it.
Telling people what to do rather than showing them what to do takes a lot less effort. And yet the latter is precisely what we need. Sadly, we may not find the answer at the top. It will likely come from the middle or even the bottom. We are experiencing today a crisis of true leadership. Few are willing to stand up to the cultural problem that wants to put a single individual at the forefront of everything. And no amount of advice from bestselling authors and leadership gurus can fix it.
What we are doing is not working. The days of making the leader better to make the team better, which then improves the company, are over. Change will no longer come from just the top. It’ll come from you and me, right here and now, wherever we may find ourselves in the hair ball. But first, we have to assess the damage. By training the leader as a superhero type, we have managed to frustrate the entire workforce, the world over, in our quest to improve the workplace. At best, leadership is overrated; at worst, a complete failure.
What even is a leader nowadays? It’s not someone respected in the workplace. It’s not a particularly industrious person who earned their way up the ranks of an organization, whose experience and expertise are highly valued by peers and subordinates alike. In today’s work climate, leadership is practically anything anyone wants to say it is, and leaders are anyone with a label, appointed by someone with a fancier label.
With engagement rates in the workplace continuing to plummet over the past two decades and only being exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the time for change is now. We are dealing with global failure of leadership that has affected the mental, emotional, creative, intellectual, and even physical health of human beings the world over.
It’s time to get rid of our old ways of thinking about leaders and leadership. The bad bosses need to go, and the way to replace them is to become something better than that which we have aspired to. The days of the selfish upstarts who charm and manipulate their way to the top are over. Individual success at the cost of the rest of the team is growing obsolete. It’s time for us to recognize that what we’re doing is not working and to see what it’s truly costing us. Change in our organizational structures and system is closer than we think, but the way it happens will be unlike anything we have ever seen before.
If leadership is overrated, then what comes next? In a sense, we have to kill what we’ve understood a leader to be so that another, better organizational model can emerge. It is no longer leadership that saves a company or defines a movement — it’s the culture — and that’s something we all can have a hand in creating. If we don’t step up and change things, we may be those bad bosses everyone is complaining about. At best, we will have submitted to another autocrat; at worst, we will have become the leaders who ought to be “killed.”