We have a serious gap in world-class leadership in both governments and corporates. With changing times, the old qualities of personal charisma, God-gifted stature, and the power to mobilise people and get things done still matter – but they are no longer enough.
As the world economy, business, technology and geopolitics have gone through a major powershift over the past decade, leaders need to not only adapt to these changes and to promote innovation, but also to grasp the opportunities they generate and mitigate effectively the multiple risks they create.
The demand for world–class business leaders far outstrips supply – with the very rapid expansion of sectors like energy, retail, telecom and financial services. These sectors are pulling in ‘proven’ business leaders from some other more traditional sectors that may find retention even harder.
Companies that need leaders with globally relevant mindsets and leadership skills have to reassess their strategies for retaining what they have and also developing a second line.
The post war “Baby Boomers” are struggling to provide the necessary leadership in this era. A new generation is stepping into their shoes. Generation X (born 1965-1976), and Generation Y (1977 – 1998) have values and work styles that are completely different from the baby boomers.
New generation leaders think differently and are a scarce resource, and should be nurtured as such. They often have a completely different way of working from their older counterparts.
They want flexible hours, more vacation time, continuous training, and they expect to leverage technology to work efficiently, instead of staying late in the office to get everything done.
Gen X and Y want rewarding, intellectually stimulating work and they don’t want someone watching them too closely to check on their progress. These new groups are independent, creative, and forward thinking. They prefer more of an individualized approach to management (as opposed to the traditional “corporate ladder”).
If you want to keep the best and brightest leaders in your organization, you need to offer them an environment that’s geared to their values. They will spend more time building relationships with their teams than their predecessors did. Because they value their family time, they’ll also give their staff enough time for personal lives.
Gen Y expect their leaders to serve as mentors, as “groomers” of the up-and-comers. And they particularly want to follow a leader who has heart.
We begin to see growing discomfort and conflict between the older leaders who can’t (or won’t) multitask, are less confident with technology, and are unwilling to share their hard-earned knowledge and the “new kids” who are overconfident, and pushy.
Gen X and Y tend to try to have more work/life balance. They’ve seen their parents’ lack of quality of life, and the lack of loyalty companies showed to these hard-working parents in the 1990s, and they’re not impressed. Things like salary and prestige can often rank lower than boomers might expect, or might want for themselves.
They are often self-reliant and don’t always look to a leader for direction. Their goal is to complete tasks in the most efficient way possible, while still doing them well. So don’t force them to work under a management style that boomers often preferred, with the boss giving orders. Give them the freedom to make their own decisions.
Leaders are the stewards of organizational energy. They recruit, direct, channel, renew, focus and invest energy from all the individual contributors in the service of the corporate mission. The energy of each individual contributor in the corporation must be actively recruited. This requires aligning individual and organizational purpose.
Finding and nurturing future leadership talent is a primary concern for most organisations. So, how do they identify those with potential, guide and mentor them, and retain them?
Building leadership has to start at the junior level. These are the foundations which cannot be ignored. Leadership has different values at different levels. For example, at the junior levels, it is taking initiative and demonstrating critical traits such as curiosity. At senior levels, the crucial leadership trait could be strategic thinking or communicating with external stakeholders. Organisations should be cautious of focusing development attention only on their senior executives who are already perhaps the most self-driven in the company. It is the next level who require more proactive mentoring, care and nurturing.