“Businesses need their work forces to be change ready and introduce new roles that may not exist today.” — Bhaskar Ghosh, Group Chief Executive, Accenture Technology Services.
Leading large organizations, business units, or teams in 2016 is very different from what it used to be 20, 15, or even 10 years ago. The rapid rate of change, business volatility, and new demographics entering the workforce has totally changed the flavours of leadership that will work today. Here’s a look at 5 leadership styles for the next gen leader:
The biggest challenge that managers today face is the demographic composition of the current workplace. From baby boomers to millennials the corporate crowd today is varied. Each of these demographic groups has different aspirations, work ethos, and lifestyles. A leader has to build an inclusive approach to successfully integrate the different styles to create a unified corporate vision. She/ he has to work with the baby boomers who might feel discomfited with the working style of Gen Ys. On the other hand she has to evolve the right motivational tactics to address the ambitious Gen Y. For the Gen Y it is important to identify with the leader and accept him or her as one of them. Mark Zuckerberg sits on a cluttered desk with his colleagues at the Facebook head office. Even traditional business leaders such as the RIL Chief Mukesh Ambani are giving up the traditional corner cabin to work from among other employees. These business leaders are trying to create the open and inclusive culture in which 21 century business will survive.
The story of the global village has been rehashed so many times that it almost sounds clichéd. However in an age where boundaries are getting more and more blurred thanks to social media the glocal approach becomes important. A Glocal leader will have global sensibilities with local sensitivities. While on one hand we see the emergence of the global professional, on the other hand each country has its own particular demographic trends and cultures that should be adhered to. Further the rise of new economies imply that leaders today should have a broad perspective and go beyond the standard management styles to adapt to a brave new world. When Richard Branson launched Virgin in India, he adapted his usual flamboyance to organize a mega launch that would appeal to the urban Indian audience. The Tata group invested significant time in understanding local labour problems in England while integrating Corus. “Think global and act local,” is the popular mantra.
The rate of entrepreneurship has accelerated across the world. Consider the stats in India. The numbers are telling—from 3,100 startups in 2014 to a projection of more than 11,500 by 2020, this is certainly not a passing trend. It’s a revolution. And it’s going to change the way the markets are working today in India. Gen Y has also been seen to be more entrepreneurial than older counterparts. The emphasis on pet projects, innovative work design has therefore gone up. To survive in a rapidly changing environment, even established organizations are embracing the entrepreneurial culture. The leader who leads such corporates has to be the intrapreneur—one who drives change. Companies like 3M, Google have embraced intrapreneurship. Google is offering their teams to spend 20% of their time on developing their personal pet projects related to the business.
Evangelism and entrepreneurship go hand in hand. The leader today has her/his job cut out. She/he has to take a leading role in creating a thinking incisive culture in the organization. The rise of digital also necessitates that leaders change old ways of working and adapt to the new, post-digital world. A leader today has to today not only be creative but be able to deal with sharp inflexion points and changes in direction. She/he has to show evangelism in determining and pushing forward with the most important changes to push forward and visualizing the future. Take the example of Google. The company has constantly reinvented itself, rolling out initiatives that is transforming human kind. Sundar Pichai, the new CEO is taking the evangelism ahead by constantly challenging status quo and betting on new products. Sundar’s rise to the post of the Google CEO was preceded by a series of innovations that he successfully led—the Google toolbar and Chrome for example. He has managed to motivate his team to constantly think out of the box and evangelize radical solutions that changed the business landscape.
The leader of today has evolved from being an authoritarian figure to being a collaborator who works with cross-functional teams to make changes happen. Particularly in a work demographic dominated by Gen Y, a collaborative style has become impertinent. Today’s leader has to diplomatically push for consensus across geographically dispersed work groups. As the concept of collocated teams is being replaced by teams working from different locations, the leader has to exert influence through personal dynamics rather than through direct intervention. It is important for the leader to establish an atmosphere of trust and camaraderie to lead in such an environment.
Marc Benioff, the CEO of Salesforce.com wished to bring the top tier of the company closer to the workforce. He realized that many of the people with critical customer knowledge were not even known to the management team. Using technology he made the whole workforce of 5000 employees virtually join the top management offsite!