Time to move on from ‘Old School Leadership’

We most certainly have a heightened awareness that old school leadership negatively impacts on our culture, chases away our talent and overall limits the potential of our organisations. Endless books, articles and even conferences call out a new way of leadership, perhaps driven by the continued ‘please train our managers!’ rally cry heard from our employees.

A critical move by organisations who take ‘good culture’ seriously has to be eradicating old school leadership from within its walls and fostering accountability to what it takes to lead in the 21st century. A leader recently commented to me that the leaders who he has done his best work for have drawn out high levels of performance, yet done it in such a way whereby he felt energised working for them. That’s great leadership.

Old school leadership is about power. Old school leaders expect those that they ‘lord’ over to serve them in the pursuit of their goals. Too many employees express the feeling that their effort is simply for another person’s gain. Today’s leadership requires humility. Humility radically alters the direction of leadership.

Power expects you to serve me. Humility asks how can I serve you.

Leadership is the privileged position of service offering the opportunity to empower others, finding ways to increase not only their productivity but their potential as well.

Old school leadership is about title. People often do what titles expect of them out of fear of retribution. That is not influence or leadership. Its command and control. Influence without a title is true influence and is founded on trust. Trust creates safe environments for potential to grow. Those who feel trusted will always give you their best. Lencioni highlighted the fact that the number one dysfunction of a team is the lack of trust. The lack of trust keeps people on edge, keeps them watching their backs, promotes secrecy and dishonesty, limits innovation and drains people of energy.

Old school leaders were promoted based on their IQ – their ability to do their functional job well. Yet leadership is about delivering results with and through people. True leadership requires EQ along with IQ. The old school idea of ‘leave your emotions at the door’ is null and void. Leadership is the harnessing of positive emotions to achieve great results, in addition to working with negative emotions to ensure barriers to greatness don’t get in the way.

We can talk about leadership all we like. The theory is out there. It’s the practise which counts. It is a great and powerful opportunity for any South African organisations to stick up their hand and be counted in this area. Let’s listen to our employees, gather our leaders and begin the conversation.

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