Tag Archives | leader


We may be in the 21st century already, but many of our organisations are still being managed as if it were the 20th century, or even the 19th! In the rapidly changing world of work, this is a recipe for disaster, and anyone who wants to be part of the new economy needs to take stock of their skills, and choose to change their priorities.

Leaders set the example for how to be and behave in this day and age. You need to be leading others into working smarter and exploiting the potential of their skills and qualities, rather than demonstrating that working hard is the only way to go.

What does this mean in practice?


The 21st century leader starts by managing themselves. He/she knows how to maintain a positive attitude, keep themselves from getting stressed, stay energised, and manage their time and priorities. A tall order? No, this is just about taking responsibility for making your life work for you. It is about ‘breaking the rules’ of custom and practice in traditional working cultures, and applying common sense instead.

After all, we all know that working for 4 hours on a report when we’re in the wrong mood is unproductive and inefficient, even if we do look busy, and we all know that we are more effective in our work when we feel energised.

Setting the direction

Are you still controlling the minutiae of what your staff do? If so, it’s no wonder if you feel overstretched, and your staff feel disempowered!

It’s time to start concentrating on the bigger picture: what, ideally, will your team achieve, and how, ideally, will they work? Give them something to work towards that’s inspiring, and some agreed parameters for what ‘a good job well done’ looks like in that vision, and let them get on with it. Lead with inspiration, instead of managing by control.

Managing others

It’s time to put into practice the implications of that old chestnut, ‘People are our greatest asset.’ We can all begin to pay proper attention to our staff, treating them as we would like to be treated. Treating people as our greatest asset means that we put our support and encouragement of them first on our list of priorities, not last. If they were a very expensive piece of technology, we would take great care of them, and they are better than that – they can achieve miracles if we treat them right!

By valuing and appreciating what others contribute, by encouraging them to use their strengths, we also set the example for how they treat each other, and customers, as well as bringing out the best in them.

Being a role model

The most powerful message we give to our staff is not through words, it is through our everyday behaviour. Just like children, we tend to copy what others do, rather than do what they tell us to do. So be aware that how you approach things, how you tackle your own workload, how you deal with others, are the messages you give about what is acceptable here. If you are managing yourself well, you will be encouraging others to do the same. If you are constructive in your approach to issues, others will be too. If you show respect to your colleagues, they will show respect to you and each other. It is a very simple formula, although not so simple to put into practice!


This might sound like a nice idea, but your to do list is miles long, so when you have time… Please realise that we will never have time – this is a choice we make, which will gradually make our lives easier, and enable those around us to work smarter as well.

The qualities of the excellent 21st century manager are not alien to any of us. They are the qualities of mature and thoughtful human beings. You undoubtedly have them – the question is, are you using them at work? And are you willing to make that choice now?

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There are times when I wonder if I am right off-track in terms of what I believe people want from a leader. Am I being too idealistic in thinking that people would prefer a leader with integrity, intelligence, a long-term view, a clear direction and a desire to make the world a better place?

After much soul-searching, I came to the sad conclusion that, although this may be what we would prefer, it is not what we think we can have. We no longer believe in it as a real possibility. We don’t tend to look for someone who will take us to a better place, but rather look for someone who will keep what we have under some sort of control.

In business the same tendency is reflected in the fact that we talk about leaders, but the majority are not leaders, they are managers – people who work at keeping what there is under some sort of control. Rather than have a vision of what may be possible, most so-called leaders are working to a short-term timescale, managing the resources they have to achieve short-term aims. These people may well do a good job, but they are not leading. The very word implies a movement forward with purpose.

If these people succeed in maintaining the jobs in their area, and keep the business profitable, they are deemed to have done a good job – and they have. What they haven’t done is lead their staff.

And it is a clear direction with a purpose that inspires people to give of their best, rather than do enough to keep the story going.

So are you a good leader? Do you have a vision of how the workplace could be better, how the work your area does could be enhanced, how the service you give could be even better? Do the people around you want to give of their best, come to you with ideas to take your vision forward?

The shift of the atmosphere in the workplace from maintaining the status to moving forward is tangible and fruitful for all concerned. We may not believe that we are likely to have a leader who inspires us to give of our best, but we still delight in it when we do come across one who is like that.

So check yourself out over the next month or so. Ask yourself some simple questions:

  1. Do I have a vision for my area that would move us forward and that inspires me with a sense of purpose?
  2. Have I articulated it to my staff, and if not, how could I?
  3. How can we start moving towards that vision?
  4. How do I encourage my staff and inspire them to want to give of their best?

And choose to be the good leader you would prefer to be.


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