page contents

For some time, sea-changes in technology and other social forces have been redefining management and organizational success. Evidence for the magnitude of the change is mounting. For example, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that a record 4.3 million people quit their jobs in August 2021. This labor shift confirms that the “Great Resignation” and the “Big Quit” are more facts than anecdotes. Our confidence in leaders and social institutions is decreasing, according to the 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer, and the declines are particularly evident in China and the U.S., the world’s two largest economies. Without trust, employee engagement and loyalty will continue to decline. Influenced and accelerated by the global COVID-19 pandemic, these forces are giving way to a new business order.

The success paradigm for managers and organizations is shifting, for example, moving from stable to agile, from structured to fluid, from tall hierarchies to flat networks, and from avoiding to addressing social issues. The forces underway reflect the chaos of our times, reflecting the dramatic movement from collapse to creation.

As we move through this chaos, we can continue to expect strong emotions and divisions among people, the brain confusion that comes with new skill requirements and advanced technologies, and an extended period of change where uncertainty replaces predictability. 

Effective leaders will be aroused to purposeful and meaningful action in helping and leading others through our challenging times. Goal-directed behaviors in five areas provide a context and foundation for managers who want to lead successfully in today’s era.

Adopt a Values-Centered Approach

Values help people connect to organizations and the world in ways more significant than individual accomplishment and effort. Values can bring comfort and support, providing the knowledge that the alignment of words and actions matters. Values guide and inform the decisions we make and the steps we take. Leaders gain faster results and build better relationships by consistently articulating and aligning colleagues to shared values.

Align to an Attractive Vision

The best leaders bring hope and discernment to work environments. When a leader brings hope, they bring a vision of new ways of collaborating and working. They create inspiring environments that reflect our interdependencies and bring systems-thinking approaches. Dissatisfaction is combatted, in part, with a vision to which others can rally. Success is a consequence of aligning others to a vision to which they agree and commit. Understand the consequences of your first steps and use your learning to grow wisdom.

Compass pointing to Vision

Attend to People and Processes

Harmonizing work environments requires the successful blending of what and how. With good intention, we construct systems to benefit customers and employees alike in transforming work inputs into products and services. Work contributes to meaning and purpose-directed activity. Leaders create places where people do their best when they pay as much attention to individuals as they do to tasks. The improvements are typically within the grasp of those closest to the work, creating the need for workplaces where peer and other forms of coaching are valued. Bad systems always trump good people, so let’s work to create environments that effectively blend our relationships with people and processes.

Periods of chaos forge a leader’s capacity and capability in leading change and managing transitions. The change leader emphasizes the disruption of the status quo. The transition champion leads people to leave the past and move to a new order. Leaders possessing skills in helping people let go and move forward are too rare among the many stuck on the growth and control seesaw.

Accelerate Progress

Leaders succeeding in this age of change will be students and coaches in progress. They seek to understand others and identify pathways and pitfalls the detract from goal-oriented behaviors. As leaders understand what creates customer delight and powerful employee communities, they take accountability to direct other leaders and teams in ways that accelerate value. Progress accelerates when relationships are established on trust and fueled with responsible straight talk. Innovation is an outcome of work relationships and networks built on frequent communication and inspiration.

Aim for Excellence 

The contemporary leader operates in a moving array of conundrums, dilemmas, and paradoxes. Many problems are difficult or confusing and lack clear answers. Often, choices seem equally unfavorable or disagreeable. Like every paradox in business life (such as spending money to make money, hard versus soft data, or change and stabilize), choices compete and contradict. Organizations fail to thrive when they do not innovate. Success depends on leadership, and we need more managers capable of leading change with excellence.

Embracing leadership effectiveness and success requires a commitment to a philosophy of leadership values and behaviors. The philosophies are typically bold, demonstrating risk-taking and the ability to challenge the status quo by bringing out the best in others. Usually, these credos find their footing in humanistic values. Self-awareness and agency are common among these leadership statements. Leaders learn to focus on the progress that advances desirable team and organizational outcomes.

New era leaders will be visible to others, particularly beyond their teams. These leaders find ways to interact with their indirect reporting relationships in ways that are meaningful and relevant. They are relentless, purposeful communicators. Visibility infers accessibility. Great leaders inspire the best in us, and we need more leaders guiding us into a bright and sustainable future.  Will you join others on the A+ journey?