April 23


Leadership, Then and Now

By Sara Canaday

April 23, 2015

advancement, career, leadership, management, self-awareness

I have been privileged to coach some amazing professionals over the last few years, and I am always humbled by their capacity to adapt and master new leadership approaches. Throughout our discussions, I am reminded that effective leadership strategies have evolved significantly since I was an Operations Executive 13 years ago.

Financial success still remains the ultimate goal, but the best path to get there has changed. The traditional leadership focus on results and production has now been heavily layered with innovation, disruption, leader as coach, and a heavy dose of EQ (emotional intelligence). Plus, the concept of long-term planning has been redefined.

Since I have always been a huge advocate of using EQ as a leadership tool, I’m glad to see more companies embracing that approach with great success. During my years in the corporate world, I worked to apply the principles of EQ as part of my leadership style. But how much greater would my impact have been if I had folded in even more of the attributes we find in the new leadership style seen today? It’s an interesting question to ponder. Consider the evolution.

Yesterday’s Leadership Imperatives:

  • Results trump everything. Finish the project on time, come in under budget, and hit the goals if you want to be recognized. Have the same expectations for your team.
  • Follow the stated protocol. Use Best Practices as a guide, and limit coloring outside the lines.
  • Data rules. Know your facts, inside and out. Always work in a systematic, methodical manner.
  • Visibility is mandatory. Being seen in the office working long hours is the best way to get ahead and set a good example for your team.
  • Seniority matters. Understand the org chart, and respect the chain of command.

Today’s Leadership Imperatives:

  • Coach and develop others. Look beyond the immediate deadline, and take time to help team members learn and grow.
    Influence with emotion. Inspire people to share the vision. Provide compelling insights using metaphors, personal stories, and moving visuals that touch the head and the heart.
  • Foster innovation. Think outside the box. Move past adhering to Best Practices and work on establishing new ones. Balance the pressure to hit short-term goals with creating new opportunities for the future. Take risks when appropriate.
  • Allow for disruption. Encourage creativity and questions. Shake it up. Accept that some mistakes may happen on the way to a real breakthrough. Provide options for people to work when and where they are most productive.
  • Give back. Weave social consciousness into the fabric of your work by volunteering, organizing a charity event or hosting a fundraiser.
  • Communicate generously. Use frequent, clear messages to keep team members at all levels in the loop. Be as transparent as possible, and use social media for anywhere/anytime contact.

I believe this leadership evolution is admirable, and companies that apply these updated strategies are reaping the benefits. When leaders are groomed with this richer set of leadership competencies, the organizations experience a significant increase in a number of key areas: productivity, employee engagement, loyalty, job satisfaction and—most importantly—profitability. Companies win. Employees win. Customers and communities win.

Despite evidence that strongly supports this new brand of leadership, I find that some leaders are still operating exclusively under the old set of imperatives. Have you embraced the leadership evolution? If so, how has it changed your impact? If not, what’s holding you back?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Sara Canaday

About the author

Sara began her journey working full-time while she earned an MBA. As she climbed the ladder of corporate America, she repeatedly observed a surprising phenomenon: the most successful people weren’t necessarily the ones with the highest IQ or best job skills. She recognized instead that career advancement was much more closely linked with how people applied their knowledge and talents — their capacity to collaborate, communicate, and influence others.

Today, Sara is happily fulfilling that commitment as a keynote speaker, author, and executive coach. These venues have given her the opportunity to mentor and support thousands of people in diverse situations, inspiring many of them to move from insight to action with dramatic career results.

  • Really enjoyed your article and believe you are RIGHT ON! One leadership “imperative” I’ve read about and endorse is “learning agility”. Good leaders are good learners, especially to adopt the keys you outlined. Thanks for this article!

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