Who are the leaders who have influenced you most? Who should we look to for guidance on how to lead a company? The framework for leading a company has until now been firm and clear. We need leaders who are absolutely focused on building shareholder value – generating growth and profits to the maximum degree.
This framework for leaders has a price. They are likely to be narcissists; people who are not shy about their achievements, people who exaggerate their talents, people who may (when it suits them) run roughshod over others to achieve their aims. The consultancy, TalentSmart, carried out a study which found that chief executives had the lowest “emotional intelligence” of anyone in the workplace – far below middle managers. Being a leader is a tough job and isn’t for wimps.
Is this a framework that can survive in today’s world? In the past, investors, shareholders, stakeholders and the like may have turned a blind eye to Draconian management approaches if profits continued to grow. This may not work in the future. Today’s chief executives need to address a wider range of issues that were not considered so important to the business in the past. A company today has to have green credentials otherwise it may not be eligible for large contracts with governments or other corporates. A company today has to have a chief executive that is free of #MeToo scandals for otherwise it will suffer litigation and employee discontent. A company today needs to treat its workforce with respect for otherwise it could face public opposition as did Amazon when it was considering Long Island City as its new headquarters.
Leaders of today and especially for tomorrow need to be of a different ilk to those in the past. They need to be listeners, humane, honest, compassionate, and empathetic – they need to show a little milk of human kindness. You may be worrying that these are qualities of soft liberals and any company leader that shows these traits will be taken apart by its workforce, the competition and forces of the marketplace. This should not be the case. Leaders with these human qualities can still be competitive and focus on growth and profitability. However, they will do so by building a strong culture of commitment within their workforce. Leaders who respect and empathise with their workforce will win its undying devotion. Leaders are important within any company but they don’t succeed single-handedly. Their success will come from the unswerving loyalty of their colleagues who will in turn respect, value, and work their butts off for their boss.