Business models are getting disrupted quickly; addressable markets are getting bigger; geopolitical and other global factors are weighing in heavier on the businesses; changes in demographics and socio-economic conditions are impacting the expectations of employees and their relatedness with the employer organisations. To make matters more exciting, we have competitive forces fiercer than ever before. Hence, the constructs used for leadership practices must be tweaked and adjusted a bit.
A few things remain intact
From time immemorial, leaders have been rewarded with success and respect if they exhibit ethical behaviours consistently. Our society runs based on a few broadly agreed norms and most people abide by those. Hence, it continues to run without major breakdowns and disruptions. Accordingly, we as adults set our expectations from others while we live in a society. At work, leaders are expected to discharge their duties in consonance with these norms.
We expect our workplaces to be fair in their decisions of delegating work; fair in the processes and benchmarks used for measuring our contribution. Also, we expect our rewards and recognition to be in line with our peers internally as well as externally. We expect our leaders to allow us a reasonable amount of freedom to operate and provide us with an environment where everyone is respected for the abilities they bring, the work they do and the impact they deliver. Moreover, we expect our leaders to create an environment where we relate with one another, learn and grow to stay relevant in the future. This is a long list of expectations, but these are more or less universal and the leaders have to stand up to these every day of their lives at work.
In short, we seek high standards of work ethics from our leaders. This gives us the perception of a likeable workplace where one can feel safe and nourished.
Some brass tacks are different now
We are living in an environment that is constantly transforming socio-economically. As talent mobility has been on the rise and the prospect of remote work has been realised in many organisations, our employee workforce is a lot more diverse than it was ever before. Hence, the expectations of our employees are quite varied and hence, it’s very challenging for the leaders to match the range of expectations.
Paying salaries on time, keeping the wages competitive, providing a safe environment for them to work, having realistic and clear expectations from employees, following fair practices in its business processes, permeating a culture of dignity and offering opportunities to take on new or larger roles have become hygiene needs. If an organisation does not provide them, they cannot retain their employees and will not succeed.
To be among the leaders in the market, an organisation and its leaders need to go beyond the realms of the basic needs of their employees. They have to focus on the quality of life for their employees.
Some ideas for delivering a high quality of life for their employees:
Firstly, the quality of supervision matters in determining the quality of life of the employees. Every manager has his or her unique way of leading, however, an organisation has to define some broad contours of leadership every leader in the firm has to exhibit. These contours have to be in line with the context of the organisation and its core beliefs. For example, organisation A might want to grow its top line while B might want to grow its bottom line; A might value camaraderie while B might value competitiveness. Firms must decide the broad contours and align all their managers with these so that they exhibit the same on the ground.
Secondly, it is the consistency of the focus areas which determines the quality of life. Our external environment has surely been dynamic and volatile; hence, we need to be agile and adjust to the developments around us. IBM Lotus Notes was a great software, Nokia used to make great phones and Lehman Brothers was a respected company, but all of them perished because they were not agile enough. However, in the name of agility, we cannot be wavering and excitedly changing the focus often. This creates confusion in the minds of the stakeholders and dilutes their commitment to the goals and KPIs (key performance indicators). The organisation loses momentum in the process and bears the risk of falling by the wayside.
Thirdly, the quality of connections and belonging that leaders create in the organisation permeates a sense of oneness across the rank and file. Employees start seeing the purpose, relate with it and start owning up to the mission a lot more strongly. Leaders have to consciously nurture the growth of the members of their team, thus firmly establishing the perception that the organisation thinks for the long-term and cares for the future of the employee’s career.
While these are not new ideas, the execution rigour and focus of these vary from firm to firm, making each uniquely successful.