Modern Leadership in Today's Workplace

Modern Leadership in Today's Workplace

Robert Ordever, Managing Director of O.C Tanner Europe, discusses what being a modern leader means and why it's crucial for success in today's workplace

By Robert Ordever

'Modern leadership' rather than 'traditional leadership' is absolutely vital right now. The traditional leadership approach of being 'the boss' and exerting control, power and authority just isn't an effective way of leading, particularly when teams are working remotely. Modern leadership requires key qualities and styles of working, all of which are needed for the effective management of today’s workforce. Here's why.

The flaws of traditional leadership

Leaders are critical to building positive employee experiences. They build their teams, provide direction, help their people to grow and develop and are crucial to both setting the tone and defining company culture

Traditional leaders focus on themselves – their power, their control and their ego, with age-old leadership practices giving a dangerously high percentage of decision-making power and control to a small percentage of designated leaders. Traditional leaders don’t encourage shared responsibility, critical thinking and innovation but are all about micro-managing, keeping their ‘reports’ in their place and taking rather than giving credit. The outcome is a toxic and chronically stressed workplace which strangles the business from the inside out, preventing it from growing and thriving.

In fact, O.C. Tanner’s 2020 Global Culture Report which surveyed 20,000 employees and leaders globally has found that traditional leadership is still evident in many organisations. It highlights that:

With such a stifling leadership approach, employees become fearful, resentful, disengaged and unproductive. This can be a recipe for disaster for any business, particularly when it comes to managing a workforce during a pandemic.

The salvation of modern leadership

These days, employees are looking for far more than a micro-manager. They want a mentor and cheerleader who inspires them to strive for greatness. A modern leader is all about connecting employees to purpose, accomplishment and one another. They show how their employees’ work makes a difference, how it furthers the company’s purpose and why it matters. And modern leaders give their employees the skills and encouragement to achieve great things while bringing people together.

The best leaders don’t try to manage, they provide direction and then step out of the way. They encourage collaboration, shared leadership and innovative thinking and provide ongoing support and encouragement. The key qualities of a modern leader are:

Humility -  Displaying humility shows you to be ‘more human’ and is about sharing authority and inviting feedback rather than imposing change and leading by decree.

Trust – Leaders must earn the trust of their teams through their actions and they must trust employees to make decisions and work autonomously.

Transparency – Transparency must work hand-in-hand with trust. Without honesty and openness, trust can never be achieved. When leaders are transparent with their team about how they can collectively work together to achieve the company’s purpose, there’s a 103% increase in the perception of employee experience and an 87% increase in the amount of great work happening.

Empowerment - When leaders empower their people to take ownership, make decisions, lead and innovate, there’s a 78% increase in engagement, a 255% increase in the incidence of great work and how leaders are perceived by their employees is improved by 184%.

Enablement – Employees need to be enabled to make a difference. It’s the responsibility of leaders to develop and grow their employees, giving them the necessary skills and experiences for performing great work.

Prioritising wellbeing – 40% of employees are experiencing moderate-to-severe burnout and so the wellbeing of staff must be a priority for leaders. This means getting to know employees on a personal level – understanding what makes them ‘tick’, how they like to work and what support they may appreciate. By having a ‘people first’ culture in which leaders focus on people as individuals, the likelihood of burnout is significantly reduced.

Mentorship - When a leader is an active mentor, employees feel a 102% increase in motivation levels and perceive their leader 320% more favourably.

Empathy – It’s important to understand and recognize other peoples’ feelings, needs and challenges. By displaying empathy, leaders become far more relatable and develop stronger connections with their teams.

Recognition – Appreciating others and giving regular praise is key to nurturing a happy and healthy team who are more willing to go ‘the extra mile’. Recognising people regularly, and not just when an accomplishment has been made, leads to an 83% increase in employee engagement. 

Research findings have been taken from O.C. Tanner’s 2020 Global Culture Report.

It’s time to make the shift

In the face of a global pandemic in which many workforces are still home-based, a modern leadership style is more important than ever. Those organisations that are still permitting traditional forms of leadership will never flourish in the same way as forward-thinking companies which champion a modern leadership approach. Of course, helping leaders shift from a traditional mentality to a more modern mindset takes time and effort, but it will dramatically improve the everyday employee experience, create a thriving workplace culture. 

About the Author

Robert Ordever is the MD of workplace culture expert, O.C. Tanner Europe. He has specialized in the field of Human Resources for over 20 years. Robert was previously at Harrods and Fulham FC and has a passion for creating workplace cultures that truly get the best out of their teams.