If a company expects to be successful in the future, its leaders need to embrace a new generation of principles; a model of servant leadership that empowers others and inspires, rather than manipulates.
Unfortunately however, too many of us are taught to be good managers, but not good leaders.
There’s a big difference between management and leadership, which can be outlined with a simple case study.
Imagine a team of forest workers blazing a new trail in the thick of the jungle.
A manager that is positioned on the ground, instructing, coordinating and organizing the forest workers, can do a terrific job – but the team can cut in a completely wrong direction and be highly disengaged while they do it.
It needs a good leader – one that is positioned above the trees – to assure that the team is moving in the desired direction as one unit – both connected to the job and to each other.
This analogy helps us understand the necessary leadership qualities for creating a team that does not only perform well, but is also highly connected and engaged.
A leader not only needs to have a clear vision and direction where the team or the business is heading, but he or she needs to be able to inspire the team to support this vision and direction. And, perhaps most importantly, he or she must earn the trust of the team.
If they fail to do so, then the only option is to lead the team in a dominating, manipulating, and fear-based position much like we see in many corporate settings.
While trust becomes an integral component for next generation leaders, it isn’t something we can implement like a business process. The only way for a leader to build trust is to continuously act with authenticity, courage, and in service to his or her team members. Once the leader truly cares about their team, they will find the team caring for the well-being of each other and the company.
The desired next generation leadership qualities of trust, inspiration, authenticity, and service require a paradigm shift. They cannot be learned from a text book nor can they be checked at the door of our business when we go home for the night. They touch all areas of our lives; of our relationships, health, and our interaction with friends, family or the janitors cleaning our offices.
Becoming a next generation leader
The path to cultivating next generation leadership qualities is a single-lane road leading back to the Oracle of Delphi: KNOW THYSELF.
Nothing more, nothing less.
To lead with authenticity and clarity, next generation leaders must become intimately familiar with their strengths and their weaknesses. They need to become aware and accountable for the situations in their work and life where they act from fear, anger, frustration, and confusion. Once they manage to do so, they will be able to create a sense of connection and intimacy (into-me-see) in their business, which becomes the nurturing ground for trust and the emotional engagement of their team members.
If the leader does not become accountable for his emotional reactions, the team will sense dishonesty and withdraw its trust.
For a next generation leader, time spent on developing their inner strength and personality is not wasted, but is a value bearing investment of their energy and time. Only once the next generation leader becomes grounded in his or her authentic personality – including his or her shortcomings and weaknesses – will they be able to accomplish what they are here to do: to lead the next generation business.