What does business leadership look like in 2023?
Have the qualities and characteristics of leadership changed over time, since Covid-19, since remote work became more prevalent or since more millennials and Gen Zers have joined the working ranks?
Yes and no.
Effective business leadership is still comprised of ageless qualities such as discipline, thick skin, decisiveness, vision, a high tolerance for risk, understanding human behavior, and being in tune with the market and your competition.
What has changed over the past several years, however, is the way that leaders now need to handle, interact, and work with staff, customers, and clients.
When you boil it down, everyone with a job wants to feel valued, respected and stimulated.
Gone are the days of trudging toward an office or factory, punching a clock, performing a mindless or repetitive task, accepting meager wages, getting yelled at or berated, and then repeating the cycle the following day.
Today’s employees need to feel as though what they are doing matters, or has a greater purpose, and that they are part of a winning team.
As a leader, the wants and needs of your staff have taken on increased importance. It’s not quite the tail wagging the dog, but employee needs, and preferences must now be given greater attention and care than ever before.
As the leader of a small, fifteen-person law firm, I have the privilege of working with people of different ages (ranging from early twenties to early eighties), from different social backgrounds and varying educational backgrounds.
What I’ve learned over the years is that effective leadership requires an acceptance of people for who they are, matched with a comprehensive awareness and conscious decision to not try to force them into roles, schedules or responsibilities that do not match their DNA.
If you have an employee who has young children and can’t get into the office until later in the morning, so be it. If an employee loves to travel internationally with his wife a few weeks each year but is loyal, productive and a leader, so be it. If an employee wants to work from home every Monday due to family obligations, so be it. Yes, it can be challenging to customize and manage the schedules of each employee, but if you have good people on your team, you need to let them “do their thing” – within reason.
Today’s leaders also need to be acutely aware of how the turntables have turned. If a leader is too harsh on an employee, that employee will be hurt, offended, angry and will quit. If a leader does not acquiesce to an employee request to leave work early to attend a Phillies playoff game or work remotely on Monday after a Sunday Fun Day, that employee will become disgruntled and look for another job.
Don’t get me wrong, employers can always say no or release bad employees, but when you have good ones, keep them happy, even if it runs contra to the way you have always done things in the past.
Scott Reidenbach, Esq.