The Rise of the New-Age Leader

With changing definitions of 'leader', an outdated employee engagement strategy seems unpalatable for present-day leadership. Nishant Kashikar, Country Manager- India & Gulf, Tourism Australia, shares his opinion on modern leadership.

When we look back to the mid 90’s or even prior and think of the terms “leader” or “manager”, our minds immediately flash an image of an authoritative figure, to whom subordinates must not just respect but consistently comply with. However, in the 21st century, the role of a leader is constantly evolving. With the induction of every new generation of leaders, the effectiveness of leadership is earmarked by the ability to employ to enhance the growth of both the company and its employees. 

While one cannot objectively categorise a modern day manager, the shift in managerial strategies over the decades has seen leaders go from formal to casual, from authoritative to democratic, from top-down to bottom up, thus transforming a once feared authority into a mentor, guide and friend. 

Over the course of time, the old-fashioned chain of command-style leadership and similar management techniques have largely been retired. In fact, through the course of my own career, I have been able to see first-hand the impact of those management practices that have now become obsolete and also those that have adapted to the evolving nature of the modern workforce. 

In light of this experience, and also the success of global giants like Google, Apple and Hilton, because of their collaborative and free-thinking work environments, I have learned that it is pivotal for leaders and upper level managerial staff to adopt similar democratic styles that promote growth rather than stunt it, so as to foster a greater sense of individuality, creativity and ownership among employees. 

Be approachable and accessible at all times, encourage even the junior most employees to have their own voice in meetings, reward and recognise employees across levels who bring ideas and add value to the organisation, have conversations that go beyond work, during break hours to establish a rapport with your team. Another essential aspect is adopting recurring one-on-one and team, two-way feedback systems, which fosters openness across the shop floor and allows employees to feel not just heard but also empathise with their superiors and subordinates, alike. By equipping themselves with these new age approaches, today’s leaders can not only aid in fostering a healthy and high-performance driven workforce but also encourage employees to make self-motivated improvements, thereby moving from command and control to collaboration in the workplace.

Today more than ever, leaders must recognise that we live in rather unprecedented times. As we move into a future where remote workstations and working from home may become long-term solutions, it is imperative for us as leaders to encourage collaboration and make versatility of work habits the norm.  Pigeonholing employees to perform and work as per dictated conditions can lead to higher incidences of work induced burnout and fatigue. 

The ability to empathise with team members across the spectrum and utilise seniority and experience to inspire instead of micro-manage by introducing flexible work environments, remote or in office, and reducing management heavy protocols can pave the way for more conducive employee driven initiatives which reinforce confidence.

The rise of the increasingly self-aware workforce that does not subscribe to traditional modes of discourse and practices is something I find particularly redeeming and can help reshape the very fabric of the Indian workforce for the better.

Skill-set of the new-age leader:

Approachable and accessible at all times.

Care about their employees, as they care about their own family.

Putting people first, by respecting them and feel wanted.

Autonomy (and not micro-management) with flexible working hours and option to work remotely.

Transparency and open communication through frequent town halls, one-on-one and two-way feedback.

Develop a sense of inspiration by taking a strong position on social issues.

Fostering & nurturing creativity and new ideas.

Encouraging work-life balance.

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