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New leadership challenges

Olivia A. Smith, senior economist

New leadership challenges

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The contemporary leader is strenuously challenged. There is no shortage of issues to be managed – financial, tactical, emotional intelligence and technological concerns.
Indeed, the agile and mobile working environment represents a new paradigm which is ubiquitous.
Leaders who still restrict or even ban social media are in the decline.
Perhaps your organization refuses cloud-based applications for privacy or security reasons, but these are also in decline. The fact is: organizations which try to resist new technologies and enterprise technologies, in particular, simply risk ostracizing themselves first and foremost from the new business environment – and as such they are therefore in the decline.
Then there are other issues which the new leader has to deal with frontally such as flexible work arrangements, pay based on performance, the severity and impact of global economic austerity measures, and simultaneous economic and social displacement which is already affecting the current workforce.
The Centre for Effective Leadership (CEL) attempted to assess future trends in leadership in a report The Changing Nature Of Leadership. They conducted a survey among a population of middle to senior managers predominantly from the United States of America but included others from Europe and Asia, between the ages of 29 and 60 years.
Under the heading The Definition Of Leadership, 84 per cent agreed that the definition has changed in the last five years, 60 per cent said leadership faced challenges that go beyond their individual capabilities, while 58 per cent concluded that interdependence is the foundation of leadership.
Further to this, the future leader will be one who sees the benefit of implementing performance management principles across the organization. That is, an individual who is able to articulate his/her vision, gain commitment to that vision from those in the organization and who then is able to create strategic alignment among the activities performed by individual members of staff, and the larger organization targets, objectives and goals.
After all, staff carrying out the organization’s operational activities must be able to draw a distinctive line between what they do/achieve on a day-to-day basis and the organization’s overall achievement and purpose. If leaders fail to establish this connection, then they run the risk of having employees who are disillusioned, disengaged and disgruntled. This concern applies equally to agencies in the private sector as to the public sector.
Performance management comprises purposeful manipulation of both technical and “soft” skills; knowledge of the methodologies to be used as well as the human relation skills to achieve results through the efforts of others.
According to the survey, respondents believe that the future leader must be capable of leading employees, building/ maintaining/repairing relationships and managing change.
As a matter of fact, technical competence and knowledge do not feature at all, but rather the ability to mobilize, influence, and to be agile as evidenced by the gaping difference in perception of change management as a leadership skill in 2002 versus the perceived high-valued currency to be placed on this skill in the future.
The global environment is incredibly dynamic, vast and often unpredictable. The effective leader will be obligated to manage at the speed of change. The CEL survey cited the leader’s ability to engineer and implement a sustainable action plan geared towards embracing change as critical to their individual success and likewise to the organization’s success.
Seventy-six per cent of respondents believe that this change should be focused on systems, processes and organization structures. In other words, effective change management is achieved through strategies to improve operational procedures and the organization architecture which governs how tasks, goods and services are delivered through the organization.
If the leader’s lens is zoomed on the future, then talent management and succession planning also become critical considerations. Through these two methodologies, the organization strategically manages its recruitment, training needs analysis, development and retention of emerging leaders even though, and perhaps especially because, the prevailing climate is challenging with uncertain solutions.
This type of environment is favoured by the Generation Xer, the emerging leader who thrives in an environment where (1) the job is clearly defined, (2) performance is based on measurement and results, (3) continuous feedback and mentorship are available, and (4) levels of challenge, accomplishment and autonomy are given. All of the above are espoused in principles of The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership by Kouznes and Posner in The Management Challenge.
The challenges facing organizations will inevitably become increasingly complex through technical challenges (within the current scope of problem-solving expertise), adaptive challenges (requiring new processes and perspectives found outside current knowledge and available resources), and critical challenges (which are the result of an unforeseen event and require unprecedented organization responses).
Given the scope of issues previously discussed, a blanket approach to leadership is therefore a fundamentally flawed methodology and it will ultimately fail.
Leadership, then, must have an intimate knowledge of the economic, human relations, governance, technological and geographical requirements of the organization.
Once its internal culture and leadership paradigms are affirmed, then the organization can begin to consider global expansion in a borderless environment.
It’s been my pleasure to bring this series of articles to you! This is the final such article produced for the Central Bank of Barbados leading up to its conference Leading In Tough Times: Confronting Challenges And Inspiring Hope.