Why old-school leadership doesn’t work

Another day, another excruciating headline about a leader behaving badly. While we generally only hear about the extreme cases of poor leadership, old-school leaders are everywhere – doggedly holding on in a corporate world, which is slowly but surely weeding them out.

These command-and-control executives are stuck in the past. Once upon a time, we thought leaders had all the answers. (Well, they told us they did.) In 2016, there is no place for leaders who believe they are untouchable or invincible, and operate from a position of privilege.

Why? Because it doesn’t work. In today’s fast-paced, even chaotic, business environment, we can only achieve corporate or public sector innovation when leaders are clued-in to the most untapped resource, the collective knowledge of their own people.

You may have read one of my recent blog posts on the five leaders I love – and why. In contrast to old-school leaders (top-down approach), new-school leaders share these key skills and strengths: they recognise the need for collaboration and humility.

Here are the other new-school attributes that old-school leaders can adopt to avoid extinction:

·      Listen. As the saying goes, ‘We have two ears and one mouth’ for a reason – we should be listening twice as much as we speak.

·      Be genuine. New-school leaders are not afraid to be authentic – it is about being real, being sincere, and free from pretence.

·      Embrace diversity. Workplaces benefit from cultural and gender diversity. Different perspectives and viewpoints are the backbone of innovation.

·      Reinvention. Business landscapes are constantly changing. New-school leaders have an adaptable and perceptive mindset – and they’re continually reinventing themselves.

Recognising the need for change is the hardest step. This applies to all leaders.

It takes an honest inventory (self-awareness) and a little healthy scepticism. I say scepticism because I think having a healthy scepticism about your own leadership success may help reveal blind spots and weaknesses that would otherwise be unnoticeable or go unnoticed.

Embracing new-school leadership is about not allowing your past to define your future, and not letting the way you’ve always done things be an excuse for not changing. Combine this with the timeless old-school leadership attribute of resilience – and you’re on a winner!

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