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Management and Leadership

At the outset, a very happy new year to all my readers! Recently, I saw a six-month old entrant to the corporate sector challenging many of the traditionally held beliefs of leadership, resulting in some bruised egos on my team, and plenty of questions to ponder in my mind. My curiosity led to research & discussions on leadership in the age of millennials, and here is a compendium of my learning on this journey.

Egalitarian vs. hierarchical structures: Gone are the days of layers where you had doers at the bottom and reviewers at the top. The foot soldiers at the bottom of the pyramid have laid Alfred Lord Tennyson’s “theirs not to reason why” philosophy firmly to rest!

Businesses have all faced a similar situation: should they pursue profit exclusively or should they risk reducing it by spending money to minimize or eliminate their products’ and services’ harmful effects?

BlueSteps chats with Susan Goldberg, Susan Goldberg Executive Search Consulting, who recently published Leadership in Wonderland.
 

First of all, thank you for taking the time to speak with BlueSteps about leadership and your new book, Leadership in Wonderland. Can you tell us a little about your background?

Thank you, Bluesteps and the AESC for giving me this opportunity to talk about my book.

To answer your question, I’ve always loved to read, particularly fiction. I find that readers of fiction tend to be curious and enjoy examining and observing human behavior.

How will the Fourth Industrial Revolution impact the skills that executives need in order to thrive in such a rapidly changing sector?

The first Industrial Revolution, in the 18th century, created machines to replace manual labor, and gave us the steam engine and water power. In the early 20th century, the second Industrial Revolution gave us electricity, which birthed the assembly line and mass production. Between the 1950s-70s, electronics, computers and digital technology gave birth to automation in manufacturing – ushering in the third Industrial Revolution.

And now we face the fourth Industrial Revolution – or, as the German government called it for the first time in 2011, Industry 4.0.

An evergreen topic of interest to professionals in the corporate world and students of business schools alike, the mere thought of leadership conjures up several images.  At the same time, how many times have we heard from folks that Mr. X is a great leader but a really bad human being? Based on several years of experience and intense conversations from teams on the values that would help them rank a corporate leader highly based on his or her personal traits, here’s my take:

Simplicity – The best leaders I have worked with have always kept things simple. For example, in one of my first jobs, the CEO said something simple that set me off on the right path from day one of my career: “Will you let your job drive you or will you drive your job?”

When you click on a link and get dumped into 404 limbo, that’s not good. But when a link’s completely dead, that’s even worse.

Calling a number on a company’s website and reaching a retiree in Boise is unfortunate. Hearing “The number you have dialed has been disconnected or is no longer in service,” may suddenly classify your prospect or customer as “former.”
 

how_404_errors_and_other_little_mistakes_impact_businessMinor to Major

Years ago, I was waiting in the queue at the airport lounge reception to get my card swiped for entry. The gentleman in front of me forgot his PIN and had to call up his bank. They promised him a quick dispatch of the replacement PIN within seven working days via post (not very quick these days). The exasperated customer wondered why they could not send to him in a digital form via phone or email – after all, he just needed information, not a physical product. It is precisely moments like these that set the context for leading in the digital world of today.

I am a domino. It’s likely that you are, too. But whether you’re propped at the front of the line, in the middle, or way at the back will depend upon your current employment.

It is, as the pundits like to say, the price of progress: as technology advances, work changes and, often, that work goes away. It’s happened in manufacturing as robots replaced human workers (though offshoring didn’t help), and it’s moving on to white collar jobs where artificial intelligence is assuming chores that once were considered “safe for human assumption.”
 

Jim Collins and his team of researchers spent five years exploring what made companies go from good to great. And through his work, many companies have been positively impacted. But, how do you go from a good leader to a great one?

Remember during your employee orientation when your company reviewed their Code of Ethics with you? You know, the short list of basic ethical guidelines to follow when conducting business on behalf of the corporation? I didn’t think so! 

Most corporations have Codes of Ethics or Ethical Conduct hidden on their websites, or on their internal intranet buried within their “Values” statements, or somewhere within their Employee Handbooks. But, they rarely call attention to them. Corporations figure their new hires and current associates all have a ‘moral compass’ or they would not have been hired in the first place. However, events in today’s business world demonstrate how a simple slip in ethical conduct can doom an entire company.