In today’s modern business landscape, adaptability is quickly becoming the most important leadership trait.
The rise of technologies like artificial intelligence and virtual reality, and the increasing importance and influence of Big Data have shifted the workplace into a new space, and with it, developed new types of modern management practices.
To be modern leaders, CEOs now need to evolve their skill sets. It’s not enough to show outstanding leadership through the form of KPI achievements and successful navigation of turbulent times: modern leaders now need to think fast, be willing to collaborate, and be able to champion a mission with an ethos or objective that employees feel that they can buy into.
But if CEOs are going to stand out as exceptional leaders, or even evolve their style of leadership to align with modern management practices, what traits define the most successful of modern leaders?
We’ve found out.
1. Modern leaders embrace collaborative efforts
Author of The Fall of the Alphas Dana Ardi was the first to highlight one of the most important elements that slowly but surely changed the face of leadership from traditional to modern: collaboration.
Whereas in previous management structures leaders would likely work exclusively with one or two other senior executives, new modern leaders view strength in numbers and rely on everyone in the organisation to achieve the organization’s goals.
Modern leaders actively encourage employees to develop their own ideas and then share those with the rest of the team. They appreciate teamwork and strive to create a culture of collaboration and togetherness, and they leave their egos at the door if they face ideas that are different or more successful than their own.
2. Modern leaders communicate effectively, often and openly
For aeons, employee engagement surveys have continued to highlight one deficiency in particular in any organisation: communication.
Feedback varies from information being too fragmented, too complicated, too inconsistent, too restricted, too ambiguous, too scarce, too late, and even completely non-existent. Yet communication is essential to leaders who want high performing teams.
This is even more surprising when we consider an adage that has stood the test of time: we have two ears and one mouth, so we should listen more than we speak.
If leaders are unable to hear dissatisfaction from their employees, they shouldn’t be surprised when they find themselves unable to change direction and holding the resignations of some of their most valued employees.
Interestingly, the modern business world is both bettering and complicating communication. With the rise of hybrid and remote workforces, the future of work looks set to be connected through digital and virtual channels, with teams spread across the world in different locations.
This means that there is a heightened focus on communication for leaders: They now must be able to communicate effectively either by phone call, video conferencing, emails and in-person – sometimes all at the same time!
To make this work, good, modern leaders communicate concisely, effectively, regularly and with authenticity. They’re honest with team members about business development and will admit if there are things that they don’t know or can’t yet share. Further, they recognise good work and are truthful with employees when it comes to holding tougher conversations.
3. Modern leaders don’t manage by fear but rather motivate through trust
A key new modern management practice is the switch in managing not by instilling fear into employees but instead by motivating through trust.
The modern leader recognises that trust is built both ways. It begins by quelling archaic management traits like micromanaging, and instead starts with giving employees autonomy to work to their best level, at a place and in a manner that plays to their strengths.
Formal one-to-one feedback sessions are another element that benefits from modern management practices. Gone are the days of an awkward series of questions. Instead, these are replaced by open conversations that offer encouragement, constructive feedback and a two-way discourse with leaders being open to receiving feedback on their management style.
Modern leaders also build trust by considering themselves to be heads of sports teams. In this framework, the head coach doesn’t do everything themselves but instead enables and empowers the other coaches to work as part of a unified team.
So, to achieve this, modern leaders also cultivate trust through delegation. They present others with the opportunity to experience leadership and give others the freedom and room to grow, learn and lead.
If a project looks to be failing, they don’t step in and take over immediately. Instead, they offer gentle support and guidance where necessary and empower employees to have the confidence to make their own decisions.
Mentoring, not dominating is a key message in the traits of the modern leader.
4. A modern leader encourages two-way learning
Top-down leadership models have commonly befitted the types of leaders who want to direct as much as possible, whilst startups and other SMBs frequently fall into more agile styles which include bottom-up idea generation and holistic project management.
This difference in leadership models – and a flat organisational structure – is a reason why startups in particular are commonly associated with having leaders who are visionaries and feel more connected to their employees, the industry and the day-to-day activities of the business.
Regardless of the size of the organisation or the management structure, however, there is a modern management lesson to learn: leaders in small organisations take more time to listen and learn, which in turn builds stronger employee relationships and boosts commitment as well as productivity.
As leadership is a process of continuous learning, leaders who show they are open to change and development promote inclusiveness and empathy which have positive impacts on talent attraction and retention.
5. Modern leaders embrace new types of change
Digital trends in the workplace have infiltrated traditional methods of leading teams. As a result, leaders are more likely to create an impactful and lasting work atmosphere when they embrace change.
Embracing change is essential to constant innovation which can move businesses ahead of competitors and result in larger slices of market share. This is why as learning and communicating methods continue to shift, management styles need different approaches.
Modern managers actively seek out change and evaluate the lessons that they can take from it in order to position their business to take better advantage of it. Examples of this include things like automation and artificial intelligence. If a business can learn how to leverage technology capabilities, it could use these to create seamless workflows that save employees time, which can then be spent on developing other areas of the business. For instance, automating routine and error-prone tasks like tracking and reporting business expenses can help shorten reimbursement cycles and help the business close books on-time.
On the other hand, a traditional leader who shies away from change and aims to protect the workforce from it could end up losing money, losing market share and falling behind the adaptability curve of competitors.
Modern managers need to encompass traits like adaptability, empathy and integrity in order for their business to stay competitive. In today’s ever-changing landscape, these skills are more important than ever before.
If you’re ready for a growth mindset that incorporates these traits into your management style or wants help building one from scratch, we can help! Our HPex board of business consultants are passionate about helping businesses move forward with new ideas and the resources they need to grow. Contact us today if you’d like more information on how our coaching services could benefit your company’s future.