Magazine article New Zealand Management

From Commander to Coach-The Evolution of the Modern Business Leader

Magazine article New Zealand Management

From Commander to Coach-The Evolution of the Modern Business Leader

Article excerpt

Think back to when the world was a more constant place and business leadership seemed more structured.

Leaders developed strategy, managers worked out how to implement the strategy and workers did what they were told. They didn't have to adapt to constantly changing circumstances--they simply had to do their job.

Command and control was the dominant form of leadership and, until quite recently, remained unchallenged.

But with the emergence of rapid technological and social change, business had to adapt to an always fluid, and frequently chaotic, environment. A command issued one month might be rendered obsolete the next--but rather than being empowered to find solutions, workers often had to refer upwards and await a new set of instructions.

At the same time a new breed of employee was emerging. Raised to believe they were unique individuals with worthwhile contributions to make, Gen Y and younger members of Gen X weren't about to blindly follow orders. If they disagreed with a command, they could happily scour the internet for supporting evidence and then challenge the boss. Or email and text their friends and colleagues and tell them why the boss was wrong.

Savvy businesses soon realised that, except in situations such as crises demanding immediate action, command and control was no longer effective leadership. It might get things done, but it didn't allow adaptation to a constantly changing environment.

And in a world of entrenched skills shortages, it no longer served as a strategy for motivating and retaining employees. Employees disempowered by a controlling organisational culture would, sooner rather than later, be registering with online job sites and decamping to an employer that appreciated their individual strengths.

As a result, consultants are increasingly being called in to guide business leaders in becoming coaches, not commanders.

While business leaders must still be able to provide solutions when necessary, just as many solutions are now provided by the teams that they lead. But those solutions will come only from teams that have permission to use their initiative, feel empowered to act and have the right mindset to seek solutions in the first place.

Enter the coach. A coach is not someone who instructs employees in the technical skills of their job. …

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