The term 'boss' no longer captures what the name suggests. He or she may head the business but bossiness is out, culled along with the old command-and-control model of management.
Power games have given way to power sharing, autocracy abandoned in favour of meritocracy and dog-eat-dog competition is, they say, losing ground to win-win co-operative deals. And the hectoring bully who treats workers like a separate class of being is marked for extinction. The 'boss' has transformed into leader and personal style has more to do with generating inspiration than perspiration.
But while there is more emphasis on caring, sharing and fun, new model leaders are not softies. They empower others but in return expect accountability. Employees must live up to the trust placed in them.
There are several reasons why management and leadership styles are moving from the autocratic mould, moving instead down more emotionally intelligent tracks. The faster-paced, more knowledge-intensive business environment is one influence. No individual can now keep up with all the issues and information that is factored into decision making.
"Managers can't afford to be hierarchical because the skills required in business are constantly changing," says Sheffield consultancy partner Ian Taylor. "Young adults emerge from the education system with skills that are immediately applicable and those need to be captured. Flatter structures, shared power allow that."
And then there's the shift in worker expectations. The XY generations (30-somethings and down) want to work in more egalitarian environments, in part, says Taylor, because they've come through an education system that is supportive of the idea that everyone has a talent to contribute to the whole.
"Pragmatically speaking, there is wisdom in a retention policy that values all employees relatively equally. People buy in for the long term on the basis of their ability to share and develop in an environment. Unless you, as an employer, send out those signals and give people the opportunity to develop, be trained, share in the organisation's evolution, then you'll get churn."
The change in leadership styles also reflects changing societal values worldwide. A recent article by Booz Allen Hamilton vice president and business strategist Klaus-Peter Gushurst characterises the new leadership as "sober, spirited and spiritual". Today's leadership styles, he says, "combine the classic values of discipline and execution with the contemporary values of openness and natural expression".
Local economic commentator Brian Gaynor, on the other hand, describes those who are now heading New Zealand companies as more professional, knowledgeable and better at promoting those under them. "I always thought New Zealand leadership was about standing on the fourth rung of the ladder and kicking anyone wanting to come up. These guys are heading for the fifth, sixth and seventh rungs and simultaneously encouraging everyone to come up with them," says Gaynor.
They are movers and motivators. They are, however, a lot less likely to try and control situations or to seek the limelight, according to Gaynor. Even a couple of the CEOs approached for this article declined on the grounds that they'd be happy talking about their organisation or business in general, but not about themselves.
The five we eventually selected for interview come from different backgrounds and work in different industries but, in various ways, each touched on the common themes of empowerment and inclusion, respect, openness and integrity, inspiration and aspiration.
They also talk about the importance of values, espouse corporate social responsibility and share a determination that their family life and personal interests are not sacrificed to work commitments.
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