What Today’s Workplace Needs Its Leaders To Do

Today’s organization requires radically different leadership skills to survive in the rapidly changing global economy. Organizational leaders must make their organizations more flexible and responsive. To do so they must:

  • Foster an environment which is conducive to learning and self renewal
  • Create an appetite and agility for continuous change
  • View every organizational member as a source of valuable ideas
  • Share their expertise as well as their mistakes freely with others
  • Demonstrate a high level of patience and tolerance for ambiguity
  • Share power and decision making with others throughout the organization
  • Demonstrate commitment to their own learning
  • Have a strong sense of purpose for themselves and the organization
  • Be willing to share important organizational information at all levels
  • Encourage relationships and the building of networks
  • Demonstrate courage and inspire others through their own actions
  • Respond to both spoken and unspoken needs of others in the organization
  • Have high personal and professional standards

The rapidly changing marketplace, increased global competition, and leaner organizational structures require radically different skills and attitudes from all individuals in the workplace.

Some of what the workplace needs people to do:

  • Embrace change: Never has the pace been more rapid than it is in today’s market place. Organizations must respond quickly and be innovative to survive, let alone have a competitive advantage. This requires a flexible, adaptable workforce. Corporations simply do not have the reserves to tolerate anything less. This translates to a variety of new work arrangements, including changing work assignments, flexible work schedules and frequently re-forming work teams.
  • Learn to thrive on uncertainty: Flatter, leaner organizational structures mean that there is less day-to-day direction from the top. Individuals will be expected to form networks within and outside their organizations, master the skills of creative collaboration, respond to frequently changing priorities, and assume personal responsibility for setting their own direction.
  • Stay abreast of technology: The Internet is rapidly becoming the hub of the global marketplace, and the corporation’s workforce will need to develop and maintain its proficiency in computer and telecommunications technology in order to be viable. Teleconferencing and virtual learning are but two examples of how organizations are orienting their practices in the global economy.
  • Learn to make the most of network relationships: Increasingly, organizations are entering into alliances, mergers and joint ventures with former competitors. The ability to manage lateral relationships will be a critical determinant in peoples’ ability to achieve results. No longer can organizations afford internal compartmentalization and the associated redundancy characteristic of traditional management structures. Cross functional work teams and matrix structures are becoming commonplace, and they require a more demanding set of interpersonal skills.
  • Make the most of learning opportunities: Organizations, which survive and thrive in the 21stcentury, will be those, which are continually renewing and learning. People who work in or with them will be expected to assume full responsibility for managing their learning in response to changing organizational needs. Learning will be different than that in traditional organizations as well. Rather than prescribed curriculum being handed down from “experts”, people will be responsible for creating their own learning opportunities to harness their individual creativity and talents.
  • Develop a different perspective on career advancement: Career advancement in the traditional organizational structure consisted of upward promotions throughout one’s career. Leaner organizational structures preclude that expectation within 21stcentury corporations. Instead, career advancement, indeed the ability to add value to the organization, will increasingly be evidenced by “career networking”. People will develop a broader base of experience and more extensive networks by making a number of crisscross career moves.
  • Add value: The organization can no longer afford the workforce that merely meets expectations. Increasingly, standards are being raised to ensure competitive advantage, and exemplary performance will be the norm. People who thrive in organizations will be those who pursue opportunities to add value. They will see themselves as stakeholders in the enterprise.
  • Alter expectations about employment: Contract work, outsourcing, temporary employment, telecommuting, virtual organizations—these are but a few of the changes in the way people are already being “employed” as organizations are downsizing and restructuring to be more competitive. The workforce of the 21stcentury will not expect to have a lifelong relationship based on dependency with one employer. Instead, people will have a series of short-term relationships throughout their careers in which they contribute their knowledge and expertise in response to particular business needs. They will have to operate more like business owners whose customer is the corporation.
  • Embrace new workplace relationships which will replace traditional supervision and mentorship: Reshaped organizations will have fewer leaders at the top than traditional vertical organizational structures, and, given the rapidity of change, those at the top will be incapable of being the repositories of organizational knowledge and wisdom. In the new era, leadership will emerge throughout the organization regardless of job title or status, and individuals will have relationships with “leader coaches” who will sponsor them in their development of new knowledge and achievement of evolution performance.
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