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The Changing Face of Leadership

changing face of leadership

Wouldn’t it be nice if leadership qualities, thoughts, and actions could be learned once and then applied consistently throughout our careers? Of course, we all know that this is a pure myth. Just like almost everything in life, leadership is constantly evolving and changing. However, many leaders tend to act as if leadership acumen is static, and feel (as well as display) resentment, anger, and an inability to change when they realize their style has become outdated. They gripe about ‘those millennials’ or resist new technology that could help them take their leadership game to the next level instead of embracing change and learning from it.

The truth of the matter is, if you aren’t willing to accept that leadership has changed and that you need to change with it, you may no longer be qualified to lead. Not all those who subscribed to older forms of leadership are able to adopt new beliefs or actions, while others who were uncomfortable with older leadership tactics may now find their time has come to take on a more evolved leadership role. Here are just a few ways leadership has changed over the past 20 years and how you can tweak your style to stay relevant.

An Emphasis on Democratic Leadership

Gone are the ‘do what I say and not what I do’ days of leadership. Younger generations not only want to see you ‘walk the talk’ before they blindly follow your lead, but they also want to be more involved in the decision-making process. The good news? As a leader, you can actually learn a lot from those you manage and incorporating others’ experiences, talents, and viewpoints almost always results in better-rounded, more complete approach to problem-solving. For a leader to be truly democratic, they need to check their ego at the door and realize that leadership is not about them—it’s about the team and doing what’s best to bring out their best qualities. Leaders who believe they already have all of the answers, and are not willing to entertain alternative viewpoints or perspectives will not be able to build a truly empowered and resilient team.

A Demand for Flexibility

Today’s workforce is more flexible than ever and leaders must reflect that in the way they set rules, interact with their teammates, and manage time. Many millennials prefer working from home or coffee shops than being in a traditional office, while others are more productive working four ten hour days than the traditional nine to five. If you have a rigid leadership style, you may find that young, talented workers are gravitating toward your competition or that your current employees are starting to look for other options.

The Need for Transparency

Leaders can no longer sit on their pedestals and call out faults in their employees while pretending to be above the law. Today’s leaders must show vulnerability and transparency to gain the respect and loyalty of those they lead. This can be very difficult for leaders from the old school who were taught to be stoic and keep a brave face no matter what. But with the importance that trust plays in well performing teams, being transparent and open to giving (as well as receiving) empowering feedback is essential to effective leadership. Though yesterday’s workforce may have needed the strength that old school leaders portrayed, today’s teams respond more to honesty, candor, and real conversations.

There are many other many other skills to focus on as a leader including delegating, motivating, strategic thinking and decision making, but without the ability to operate democratically, flexibly and transparently, those activities will not be as impactful or successful long term as they could be. As a leader today, we need to be focusing more on how we are showing up as a leader and in seeing our teams as whole people, and not exclusively on what leadership actions we are taking.

Trish Cody is an Executive Awareness Coach and Speaker who focuses on optimizing results for business leaders. With over 20 years of experience as a strategic consultant for some of the world’s top Fortune 500 companies, Trish Cody has coached and consulted with senior level teams in planning, designing, launching, and measuring the return for major initiatives. As a Certified Professional Coach and Energy Leadership Practitioner, Trish works with senior level leaders and business owners to raise their levels of self-awareness and create more trust, loyalty and success in their businesses and teams. Contact Trish at

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