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What Will It Take To Be A Leader In The New Decade?

What will it take to be a leader in the new decade that we are entering?

The days of accepting horrible behavior from a brilliant manager are ending.

Leaders at all levels need to accept that leadership involves more than performance or “making a dent in the universe.” To be a true leader, you need to inspire, respect, empathize, share the credit, accept the blame – and of course, perform.

The culture of worshiping tech founders and high-profile leaders that are abusive is ending.

  • Tolerating the verbal tirades of the genius founder – over.
  • Looking the other way at the sexually abusive behavior of a high performing CEO – over.
  • Accepting immature or immoral behavior from a leader because they hit their numbers – over.

As we enter a new decade, I believe the 2010’s will be the tipping point for when the tolerance of executive mistreatment ends and we move.

A great example of how a workplace can go from high-performance to abusive was reported about Away, the premium luggage brand. Here is a link to the full story, as reported by The Verge.

As we enter a new decade, I believe the 2010’s will be the tipping point for when the tolerance of executive mistreatment ends and we move into a decade where more will be asked and expected of our leaders.

Jason Shens, in his article “People Are Getting Soft”: How the Away Scandal Exposed a Silicon Valley Culture War” says:

The definition of an acceptable work environment is changing. What might have been considered normal 30 years ago, such as casual sexism, racism, ableism, have become far more scrutinized—and that’s a good thing.

Tech employees should expect to work somewhere free of verbal abuse, emotional manipulation, or extended unpaid overtime.

The spectacular fallout from a recent investigation into Away, which portrayed the beloved luggage company as a toxic workplace, has revealed two schools of thought on how to treat startup employees. The first says that staff should be cherished because harnessing the passion and brilliance of “A players” is key to success. Think catered lunches, beautiful offices, and “Best Places to Work” lists.

 The second says that making a dent in the universe is hard, and employees should expect to work tirelessly under the directives of visionary and sometimes mercurial founders. Think “hustle culture,” Class B voting shares, and Steve Jobs’ infamous tirades.

It is important to note that it is not a binary choice where you either treat all the employees as snowflakes or have a sweatshop run by a megalomaniac. There is a lot of room in between these two extremes.

Startup cultures, or any high-performance workplace, will be intense. Everyone will be pushed to excel, and the expectations to deliver will run high. Real 21st century leaders though will not have to use verbal tirades to get the team to perform. It will not work anymore.

The Darwinian philosophy of Jack Welch in the nineties and the Steve Jobs alternate realities of the 2000’s have proven not to have a very long shelf life. We have all moved on and expect more from leaders. Specifically:

  • Bring their real selves to work and treat everyone with integrity, respect, and honesty.
  • Embrace and respect the responsibility of being a great leader.
  • Deliver results the right way – by inspiring, coaching, and supporting.
  • Not be racist or homophobic and be respectful of a multicultural workplace.
  • Be mission-first in their behavior and not be seen as self-serving.

In the executive coaching and leadership development that I have done, I have seen this type of leadership displayed in a wide range of industries, professions, and levels. The 21st-century leaders will be taking over – the sooner the better.

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