This article was originally published for Inc Magazine.
The crisis of leadership grows, as companies struggle to adapt to change. We have a rise in part-time workers, the growth of the gig economy, evolution of technology, an increase in virtual teams, and an epidemic of toxic employees, to name just a few pressures on leaders in this ever-changing world. On top of that, we have companies like Facebook navigating scandals and Snapchat dealing with lack-of-diversity issues. Change is coming for all aspects of business–internal and external.
Companies that continue to grow and make a dent in this world must be more agile and develop their teams to navigate change. The driver for companies to evolve is and always will be the changing expectations of consumers. We are seeing a higher demand for new offers and social responsibility. Our cultures must respond with speed and create new value.
“Command and Control” Management Doesn’t Work Anymore
For many decades, businesses have run on “command and control” leadership. This method worked, as companies made improvements on quality and effectiveness. But with the disruption of business models during the last few years and shifts in customer loyalty at all-time lows, the old ways are not keeping up with the pace of change.
This old model of leadership had defined steps and processes that needed to be managed. This made the “manager” valuable to the organization. They kept all the processes running smoothly and made improvements. Now, managers are becoming less needed. The steps for next-level growth are not clearly defined and can’t be managed as before. The new dynamics of growth require transformational leadership.
As we have evolved in business, the need for leading change is paramount to continued success. The leaders thriving today are disciplined in the skills of disruption. They understand the value of conducting experiments that lead to breakthroughs. There is a much higher level of risk and failure tolerance. They are able to design a new future.
The need for more leaders has never been stronger. I repeatedly hear the need for employees to think for themselves–not just follow a playbook. As managers seek to evolve into new roles as transformational leaders, they will be faced with challenges and the need for high levels of courage.
Here are three steps in that journey to developing leaders.
1. Plan for Resistance
“Making the shift from manager to leader can be done,” says Ryan Estis, a leadership expert who works with Fortune 500 companies to help them stay ahead of change. “Plan for resistance to come from all angles within the organization. This causes culture disruption and even hinders performance.” Most of this resistance happens when the culture resists change by holding onto old processes.
2. Delegate Outcomes
Leaders are no longer expected to give step-by-step instructions. Instead, they focus on desired outcomes and goals of the task at hand. This gives teams a chance to think and strategize on options. Outcomes are the vision of the future. We must let our people think for themselves on the steps, as they are changing fast. Managers optimize the steps. Leaders create breakthroughs for growth. Be prepared to let people experience failure and navigate it with new strategies.
3. Inspire Ownership
There is an emerging trend within growth cultures that calls for leadership to inspire a feeling of ownership in each person in the company. When employees feel like owners, they are more deeply rooted into solving problems and creating value. Another way to look at ownership is to encourage an entrepreneurial mindset throughout the company. Companies that are agile and create value-driven offers are encouraging entrepreneurial thinking across all departments and roles.
Just in the last year, I have seen the shift in companies embracing this new approach. The leaders I talk to at Fortune 500-level companies are often confused about how to get employees to think more like entrepreneurs. Many leaders are operating from a mindset that this is still not accepted–that employees shouldn’t think like entrepreneurs. But leaders who are navigating growth faster than the speed of change know the importance of leadership that inspires ownership. They encourage all employees, regardless of their roles, to be creative and innovative to meet all pressure points of change.
To keep up with the economy of disruption, companies need true leaders–not the managers of yesteryear. But this does require leaders to manage internal resistance, become masters of delegation, and allow employees to become mini-leaders in their own right. Taking these steps will lead to the breakthroughs you want to see to create massive growth.
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