Redefining Leadership and the Role of Managers

Redefining Leadership and the Role of Managers

By Zach Heller

by Zach Heller

“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.” —Jack Welch

Do you think that the best ideas always come from the people at the top of an organization?

In the past, most people might have answered that question affirmatively. But things are changing – or they’ve already changed. There is a shift in organizations today that the best managers have noticed.

It is still a common assumption that the people at the top of a company are there because they’re the smartest or the most creative. It’s easy for those leaders to buy into that belief because it suits them: “Of course I’m the CEO because I’m the smartest,” a leader might assume.

But that’s a dangerous way to think in an organization today. These leaders potentially discount the ingenious or innovative ideas within the company, the ones that come from front line employees.

Prior methods: doomed to fail

Yesterday’s companies were built using the factory method. Everyone has a specialized, teachable and scalable job. People on the front lines were not meant to be thinkers; they were meant to be doers. The role of managers was simply to increase efficiency and cut costs.

Even the word “manager” suggests that their responsibility is to keep employees in line, to maintain and control. But that kind of thinking won’t work in today’s economy. It’s an outdated model supported by an outdated way of thinking.

Moving forward (with creative zeal)

Today’s economy and today’s companies demand creative thinking and innovation at every level of an organization. The best companies are hiring young problem solvers who demonstrate an ability to work in teams and think outside the box. The best employees are those that are passionate about what they do and not afraid to speak up and make changes to benefit the company.

The managerial role must adapt. The managers who will succeed in today’s organizations are those with the ability to create a culture of innovation, to encourage and recognize good ideas, and to train employees to grow and solve problems creatively. Managers are teachers who communicate openly with their employees, recognizing that communication is a two-way street.

Kevin Kruse, best-selling author and frequent writer on management strategies says this of authentic leaders: “They are able to put the mission and the goals of the organization ahead of their own self-interest. They do the job in pursuit of results, not for their own power, money or ego.”

How do we get there?

  • Education and training programs for managers to add new skill sets and identify with the new and changing nature of their employees
  • Training for workers at all levels designed to teach new skills, encourage creative thinking and problem solving, and improve communication
  • Intra-company mentorship programs that pair senior level workers with new and entry-level staff
  • Two-way communication policies such as town-hall-style meetings, suggestion boxes, and one on one conversations between C-level managers and front line workers in all different divisions within their companies
  • Incentives for employees at all levels to think outside the box and come forward with ideas that move the company forward

Corporate and organizational cultures like this don’t happen by accident. It’s vital that everyone within the organization, from the very top down, believes in the idea of open communication and that good ideas can come from anyone. Those companies and managers open to innovation are the ones that will most often find it.

Am I missing anything? Share your ideas for how managers can develop programs that promote ideas and nurture innovation in the comments section.

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