Leadership styles make or break an organisation’s culture. People admire leaders who are savvy, humble and smart. Diversity is a bonus, too.
There is such a thing as following to lead. It sounds confusing but if you look closely at leaders and what they say – and more importantly, do – it becomes apparent that most have one thing in common: they care about what’s happening around them. Not only that, but they actively keep up with what’s going on in the tech space.
It’s less about predicting the future and more about being prepared and staying informed. Good leaders listen to their staff and they listen to each other; that way they can learn.
Already this year, we have heard from some cutting-edge leaders in cybersecurity, AI, automation, data protection, HR, transport tech and more. All have predictions, hopes, fears and warnings for the year ahead in their respective areas of expertise.
But what about leadership itself? What are the leadership-related trends we should all be thinking about? You can of course go in-depth and follow our regular interview slots with leaders, such as Five-Minute CIO and Leader’s Insights, but for a quick rundown of leaders need to have at the top of the agenda, read on.
People want humanity and empathy from leaders, as well as strength and common sense. When it comes to retaining and attracting talent in workplaces, how a leader presents themselves really matters.
Before Christmas, recruitment firm Robert Walters surveyed 2,000 workers in Ireland to find out what they want in a leader. More than one-third said they would reject a job offer if they disliked the company’s CEO, proving that principles and public image are important for managers to master if they want a good team behind them.
In today’s world, where image is so important and people take pride in asserting their views, humility is necessary even for those at the top. They should take heed of the likes of Elon Musk; yes, he is still a billionaire and many admire him, but he has arguably tanked Twitter’s finances since he took it over. His litany of staff cuts at the company now known as X did not help his cause either. His critics will no doubt be thrilled if X fails further, and he only has himself to blame.
Contrast Musk’s leadership style with that of Sam Altman’s. The OpenAI CEO has weathered his fair share of controversies, too – especially around the trustworthiness of OpenAI’s new tech. Yet, when he was ousted by the company board, it was a mass protest by OpenAI’s employees that allegedly led to his reinstatement. His leadership style is more understated than Musk’s and he doesn’t make very many controversial public statements.
However, as Robert Walters’ Ireland country manager Suzanne Feeney pointed out, keeping one’s counsel isn’t always advisable either. Leaders have to be willing to stick their proverbial necks out for their values or risk being seen as weak.
“Anyone who has a significant ‘voice’ is feeling the pressure to use it wisely – and increasingly are expected to comment or provide a perspective on a host of different issues,” said Feeney.
“With this ‘voice’ comes judgement – and our polls showcase that prospective employees are in fact making career decisions based on a CEO’s opinion, or lack of.”
Leaders would do well to remember it’s a tough world out there, so tread carefully – and don’t put your foot in your mouth.
In: people and morale
According to the Robert Walters poll, almost half of professionals feel that the CEO has the biggest impact on a company’s culture with a further third stating mid-management are just as influential.
That means leaders really, really matter when it comes to how employees and the overall company performs.
Leaders might think they are being humble – and fallible – when they say that employees make the culture of an organisation, but do employees agree?
It seems not, as just 17pc of Robert Walters’ respondents agreed that it is employees who influence workplace culture.
“CEOs and senior leaders will play a crucial role in turnover, attraction and retention rates,” said Feeney of the months ahead.
It’s up to leaders to lead by example, but according to the first point, lead with humility, too. It’s a minefield out there …
Out: generational leadership
Yurik Paroubek, a US-based leader of teams in the financial and tech sector, reckons that generational leadership is gradually becoming a thing of the past. People don’t care what age their boss is as long as they can respect them and feel respected in turn.
“People tend to generalise and stereotype different generations and how they like to be led. However, leadership is not solely determined by the generation one belongs to, but rather by various factors such as past experiences, upbringing, adaptability to team composition and environment and learning style,” he says.
Leaders are normally older because experience and wisdom comes with age, but they don’t have to be. Most of us know that stereotyping people based on what they look like or their background is not conducive to a good working environment – and why shouldn’t that apply to our bosses too?
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