There are endless discussions on topics related to the Great Resignation and Quiet Quitting. Almost everyone has an opinion on the matter. Yet, truth be told, nearly all articles I've read about these trends talk about more or less the same aspects. They all say that to make people stay, you should respect their wants and needs, that leaders need to take a stand, and so on. These articles don't highlight the fact that teams need to collaborate and I mean really collaborate, to feel a deep connection and not grow apart. And that means: collaboration needs to be constant.
Now the reason why I mention this is because I recently had the opportunity to talk to many leaders at our booth at Web Summit, a technology conference. Naturally, they had different views about leadership. Yet, they had something in common. Each recognized the struggle to connect with their teams, especially now in this post-pandemic world.
So I want to ask you the same question - what makes a good leader? What springs to mind when you hear that question? Are experience, communication skills, and confidence the most important traits a leader needs to have? Or are other qualities just as important? Think about it for a second, as it's far from being an easy answer. Because, let's face it, in the last years, when working remotely has become the new normal, being a leader is no easy feat. A leader still has to maintain teamwork while keeping track of good communication and productivity. However, all these need to be done in a hybrid work environment. And most importantly, they need to be done in an environment where employees' perception of leadership is considerably weakened.
Therefore, yes, I have been thinking about all these aspects over and over again in the past weeks. And finally, I found the answer I was looking for. The funny thing is that I found it in an Inc. article that has nothing to do with the current world status. Here's what drew my attention.
"If more CEOs had to go out and sell their products, day in and day out, they'd pay a lot more attention to what they were making. The more unwilling they are to put themselves in the middle of that transaction, the better chance they have of missing out on a critical element of their business."
So, in this piece, the writers from Inc. refer to a sales technique. Still, the situation can be translated to any business department. It is as simple as that. For a leader to really understand what their employees are struggling with, they need to get their hands dirty and work side by side with their teams. Giving suggestions and pointing out problems from an ivory tower is simply not an option. Not in the times we live in and not in the times to come.
This is why I believe more and more each day that there is an acute need to break the traditional hierarchies. That we need to welcome a more collaborative perspective in our day-to-day lives. This is why I believe more and more each day that collaboration should be today's focus. Definitely, not conversations dominated by assertive voices. And yes, I believe it to be especially true if we refer to the C-suite level.
This being said, here's an approach for leaders to think about - invite employees to share the "boss powers" and adopt less directive leadership practices.
And before considering me crazy for even thinking that, here are some science reports to back up my claims.
According to Harvard Business Review, collaborative leaders are more likely to seek out diversity. They are more likely to build strategies and solve problems alongside their teams. Moreso, in collaborative workplaces, information runs naturally. And because of that, each member becomes responsible for the team.
Managers and executives who show vulnerability and put themselves in the middle of their teams can create an inclusive environment, release stress, and take ownership of their work. On top of that, they have better chances to harvest their teams at maximum potential while also keeping track of their struggles and businesses' weak points.
But that's not all. In a video from Harvard Business School, Linda Hill has a very powerful message. She specifically explains how important it is for teams to work together collaboratively:
"Innovation is not about a solo genius having an 'aha moment'; it's actually a collaborative process, usually with people who are quite different in their point of view."
With all this on the table, I want to focus my attention on you, the reader. As a leader looking to make things differently, one who wants to protect their people from growing apart and looking for new jobs, you must find courage in yourself and empower the team. You must find the courage not only to listen to their issues but take collective actions and work together in finding the solution. You must find the courage to offer continuous guidance yet also accept advice and critics. And last but not least, you must have the courage to step aside from time to time. Doing so will allow each team member to take responsibility for the others. Because only by literally working together will organizations manage to successfully bypass each bump in the road that is to come.
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