Being a leader today just isn’t the same as it used to be. Almost anyone in a leadership position today will tell you that it’s 110% harder. And why? The caliber of employees has changed.
We speak with Tim Elmore, Founder and CEO at Growing Leaders, Inc., about why the employees of today have higher expectations and how to arm yourself with the tools needed to maintain good team members.
Why leading today is harder than in the past
Tim reached out to CEOs with the question: Is it harder to lead today than it was when you first learned to lead? While he expected some mixed responses, he received a resounding 110% yes.
But why exactly is it so much harder today than it used to be? Tim walks us through some of the biggest lessons:
More education means more thoughtful questions. It can be a lot easier to lead if the directives are taken without question. The downside, however, is it doesn’t leave much room for challenge between employee and leader.
For example, imagine you give a directive to one of your employees. That employee comes to you later, challenges the order, and suggests better ways to handle the situation in the future. While having the employee say yes and then go on with their day may be faster, by taking the extra time and constructively talking through better ways to conduct themselves, the conversation is helping to create a better business.
There was a time when it was customary to leave your emotions at home. Business was a place of business with no time for anything else. But times have changed. We’re now seeing businesses encourage their employees to bring their whole selves to work.
”Bringing your whole self to work means you’re bringing emotion and baggage and all kinds of things.” — Tim Elmore
Gone are the days when you could keep your personal and professional lives separately. Social media has exposed our day-to-day life to anyone who’s a friend. Imagine an employee who calls out sick but then you see they were out the night before. It creates a strain on both sides of the employee-employer relationship.
How to balance being a visionary & having a blind spot
It may seem contradictory, but you need both vision and blind spots to lead effectively. For most successful leaders, they will say at one point or another that they wouldn’t have started their organization if they knew then what they know now.
Tim shares the example of Sara Blakely, founder and CEO of Spanx. After a successful pitch to Neiman Marcus, the company decided to beta test her product in various cities. Sara, very wisely, called her friends in those cities, sent them money, and told them to buy up all of her product.
After Spanx took off, Sara was speaking at a conference and was asked how she stood apart with her product at trade shows where there were 1,000’s of exhibits. Sara responded saying that she had never gone to a trade show.
”You have to have a vision, but maintain rookie smarts. By having mentors and other industries speaking into your life, that keeps us leveraging the blind spot as well as the vision.” — Tim Elmore
How stubbornness & open-mindedness can both be leveraged by leaders
Imagine two leaders: One tries to stay as open-minded as possible and the other is always stubborn. The open-minded leader has a lot of meaningful, constructive conversations with their employees and creates a better business. The downside, however, is that they tend to let situations slide where they should’ve drawn a line. The stubborn leader, on the other hand, drives company directives, but doesn’t help drive change.
As employees continue to become more and more educated, it will be important to be open to criticism. But there still needs to be a line on core principles.
Tim shares the example of Truett Cathy, founder of Chick-fil-A, who used his open mindedness to bring the business to life but wouldn’t budge on his core values. He cared for his employees deeply; but when an operator decided to stay open on a Sunday — a day that Truett valued as a day of rest — he drove to their location and shut them down immediately.
A key takeaway
Employees of today are more educated, encouraged to bring their emotions to work, and likely know their worth. While it may be harder to lead the employees of today, by being open to more conversations and holding firm on values that shouldn’t be crossed, you’ll create change for your business that couldn’t have taken place otherwise.
Check out this additional resource mentioned during the episode:
This post is based on an episode of the #FlipMyFunnel podcast. Check us out on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or here.
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