The Evolution of Leadership Origins

Feb 27, 2024

When we pieced together the evolution of leadership a few years ago, we were trying to understand why the leadership models that leaders had been using for decades were not very effective. At the time, we had been teaching those same models for 25 years ourselves, so we knew something wasn’t right. We just didn’t know what it was.

As it turned out, it was a combination of factors – workforce, workplace, technology, and the speed of change. The workforce has changed. This is a fact, not a judgment. There’s a lot of conversation about the workforce today. Depending upon your age and personal biases that conversation will either be very positive or very negative. The tendency for most people is to judge the current workforce rather than connecting with them. Judging misses the point. The workforce today is simply different. But you know what? So was my generation and the millennial workforce that followed us. Leaders had problems with them too. Think that there might be a pattern here? Maybe the issue is not the workforce. Maybe the issue is our resistance to adapting as leaders.

The fact is that every generation is different. The mindset, the goals, the values of this workforce are not the same as previous generations. Understanding and embracing them make it easier for you to embrace them, which is key to them to embrace you and the work they do.

The workplace has also changed. I know this is stating the obvious, but it’s important for understanding leadership models and why they do or don’t work effectively. Technology, covid, the speed of change – they have all impacted the workplace in ways that make old models less effective. Leading in a world where part of the team is in person and part of the team is remote is more complicated, but not impossible.  

Here’s the big thing that has changed about the workplace.

You can’t keep the power in your hands anymore and expect to thrive. That strategy creates compliant workers who “do” rather than “think, anticipate, and respond.” Neither can you just hand the power over to your team and expect them to figure it out on their own. This creates more chaos than acceleration. Everyone is going in their own direction rather than moving in unison like a well-oiled machine.

There really is only one solution – development. Most people entering the workforce today don’t want to be managed and motivated. But they do want to be developed. Everyone in the workforce today doesn’t think like an entrepreneur, as much as you wish they did. But, they can develop entrepreneurial thinking and action if you develop them. Avoiding development today is an invitation to mediocrity, higher turnover, and internal bickering. 

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