Did you know that over 60% of UK workers think their boss does not possess good leadership skills – and 40% actually left a previous job because of this lack of confidence. My specially commissioned research led me to ask this question: What does a good leader look like in 2016?
Leadership styles have always evolved, but there has been a seismic shift over the last 15 years. The old ‘command and control’ style of leadership is totally unacceptable to Generation Z (those born from the late 1990s onwards). Employees don’t want leaders that simply tell them what to do; they demand their leaders listen, coach and empower them in a way that inspires them to grow.
For senior leaders born long before either Generation Z or the post millennials, this can require a total mind shift; so here are my five Dos and Don’ts for being a good leader in 2016:
- Be authentic
This starts by using your own voice. Try to sound like you usually do when you’re talking to your friends and family. Speak with a soft, relaxed tone – avoid the over-projecting sound of a stern teacher.
When asking a question, try hard not to interrupt. Show that you are listening to what your team members are saying and how they are saying it. Show you care.
- Be visible
It’s amazing what a smile in the lift or a cheerful word by the coffee machine can do for morale. And, by asking how people are getting on, you can also find out what their real issues are.
- Make your staff feel special
Flatter and praise them often. For example, if you were speaking to a room full of your sales people, you could add ‘Of course, you already know this – you’re in sales!’ Always make them feel special and valued.
- Be decisive
Grab your audience right from the start – try to capture your key message in the first sentence. These four classic openers work well in a meeting or on a platform:
- Ask a question: e.g. ‘Have you ever found X to be a problem?’
- Offer a benefit or solution: e.g. ‘We all know X is a problem – well, I’d like to offer a solution.’
iii. Shock the audience: e.g. ‘If we don’t find a solution to X, we’re in deep trouble.’
- Start in the middle of a story: e.g. ‘So there I was, just 21 years old, when …’
- Don’t big yourself up
Sound pompous at your peril! If you big yourself up, your staff will want you to slip on the proverbial banana skin. And don’t take yourself too seriously – as Billy Connolly said, ‘Never trust a man who, when left alone in a room with a tea cosy, doesn’t try it on.’ A little self-deprecating humour goes a long way.
- Don’t bring your personal worries into work
It’s amazing how easily a stressed CEO can infect the atmosphere at work.
- Don’t avoid the elephant in the room
If you suspect your staff have specific worries or hold certain prejudices, it’s usually better to address them head-on rather than trying to brush them under the carpet.
- Don’t rush
To sound like a leader, always try to wait two seconds before you speak. It will look like you are comfortable standing there and will give you an impressive natural authority.
- Don’t treat an audience as one mass
It’s tempting to look above the audience’s heads or ‘de-focus’ when speaking to a larger group, but the secret of eye contact is to hold one thought with one person and one thought with another.
So, to be a good leader in the modern world, there are three fundamental things we need: energy, clarity and humanity. If we can show all three, we will come across as focused, authentic and charismatic. And we will be able to connect with Generation Z as well.
By Robin Kermode, founder of Zone2