5 Ways Leaders Can’t Be “Normal” Today

Leading outside the norm

Leadership is so much different today than when I first started leading almost 35 years ago. To lead today we must learn to think outside some things once considered normal in leadership.

And, hopefully “normal” is a play on words for most leaders now. 

When I was first in leadership as a retail manager, I could set the schedule for people, tell them what to do, hold them accountable for routine tasks with high expectations, and then evaluate them by whether or not they did the job. This was called a job – and, if you wanted a paycheck you worked for it.

It doesn’t work quiet like that anymore. It hasn’t for some time, and, to be honest, I tried to do more with leadership even then, but some of those still in leadership still haven’t caught on that “normal” leadership isn’t normal anymore. 

For example, in today’s leadership, the informal aspects of leadership are as important as the formal aspects of leadership. In addition to systems and structures – for a leader to be successful today – leaders must engage a team on personal levels. 

We must build team spirit. Energize. Motivate. Engage. Even sympathize. Those have always been important, but these days they may trump some of our policies and procedures.

In informal leadership environments, the way a leader leads is often more important than the knowledge or management abilities of the leader. Again, they have always been important, but in today’s leadership it is critical.

Here are 5 examples of how a successful leader must lead in today’s environment:

Adapt leadership to followers individual needs and expectations.

Cookie-cutter leadership doesn’t work as well among today’s workforce. Leaders must be wiling to individualize their leadership based on the current setting, culture and individualism of team members. It makes really getting to know the people you lead even more important. Leaders must ask lots of questions to understand personal values of others. It helps us lead according to a person’s individual strengths and abilities and helps them perform at their greatest effectiveness.

Raise up new leaders.

Those on the team with the propensity or desire to lead, must be given opportunity to help lead the organization. This is no longer an option. Not only is this good for the organization by creating future leaders, it is key to keeping the best people on the team. Those entering the field of leadership today – or desiring to – will want a seat at the table of decision. They want to make a difference. This can be a great things for our churches and organizations if we will welcome it. 

Balance kindness or friendship with authority.

John Maxwell’s axiom “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care” has never been more true. People follow leaders they can trust. They follow leaders who believe in them and will invest in them. While leaders sometimes must make difficult and unpopular decisions, authoritarian or controlling leadership is not well received by today’s workforce. Following orders from the “boss” has been replaced with a desire for servant leaders.

Give others ownership in the vision.

People want and need to be stakeholders – knowing they are making a difference with their work. To do this means they must have ownership in the creation of vision. Allowing a team to help shape the agenda helps assure their heart buys into completing the mission. Letting people help write their job description gets people in places where they can bring their best contributions to a team.

Create what’s “next” for a community’s greater good.

Great leaders think beyond themselves – even beyond their own team or the vision, goals and objectives of the organization. Today’s leaders must understand they play one part in a more global sense. We are much more connected these days through social media and online instant connections. The world around us is watching – as are the people we have on our team. The way an organization treats it’s employees, supports the community and how it interacts with the people the organization encounters daily is important. We can’t sit back, make a profit or fulfill our individual goals (even as churches) and ignore the myriad of social needs all around us. If it’s not done well the world will know about it quickly.

Finding the right balance between a formal style of leadership – where everything is clearly spelled out for people to follow with a carefully created structure – and an informal style – where a team helps to shape the course of action – is critical to an organization’s success.

With my 35 plus years of leadership experience, I realize I’m from an “old school”, but I’m still learning – and re-learning.

I have learned this: Leaders today must continually strive to find the balance between formal and informal structures.

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12 thoughts on “5 Ways Leaders Can’t Be “Normal” Today

  1. Love God and love one another. In everything we do, or set out to do, stay connected to Jesus because apart from him we can do nothing.

    I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. (John 15:5)

  2. I really appreciate the point you make about sharing ownership of the vision with others. Too often we fail to realize that our vision only grows and becomes more effective when we couple it with that of our team. I can't tell you how many times I've sat back in amazement as my original grand vision turned into something I could have never dreamed on my own once my team had ownership of the vision with me.

  3. "Those on the team with the propensity or desire to lead, must be given opportunity to help lead the organization." I love this point. It is hard to delegate leadership to others, but if we stifle someone who desires to lead, we will only push them away.

    "People want and need to believe they are making a difference with their work." This is also very important. The vision must be communicated clearly and often. If the vision isn't constantly reiterated, it can be easy to lose track of what is trying to be accomplished. And when people don't know the ultimate goal of their work, how will they know if they've made a difference?

  4. These 5 examples are great, I especially enjoy the "Creating for the Greater Good." With the world becoming "smaller" there is little done that does not have a global impact. Those leaders who refuse to acknowledge this will retard their orginization in the long run. The only thing I would add to this list is: Leave a heritage worth inheriting.

    I believe there is a disconect between generations. My generation (millennials) wants different than our predecessors. In turn we "blaze our own path" and come across as ungrateful. To follow dreams is not a bad thing but the problem with that pursuit is that our dreams can be near sighted and uninheritable. So if we want our work to continue after we are gone we must leave a heritage worth inheriting becuase if not the Millennials will leave it.