When we say the words “old school leadership,” what comes to mind? We tend to think of a more traditional or “old school” leaders as typically being more authoritarian. Authoritarian leaders:

● tend to have behaviors such as making decisions without involving others or seeking input from their team.
● are usually more task-oriented with a top-down approach.
● tend to be more autocratic and punitive.
● are more likely to use position power to influence others.

There isn’t necessarily something inherently wrong with authoritarian leadership; however, there is a lot of research showing that authoritarian leadership has negative impacts in the workplace. According to an article by Forbes, while authoritarian leadership has been “tolerated and even promoted” at times, “If you make people fear you, or resent you, the last thing they are going to do is give you their support and ideas.”

According to Frontiers in Psychology, “Authoritarian leadership has been found to negatively influence outcome variables such as team interaction, organizational commitment, task performance, and extra-role performance (Chen et al., 2014).” At times though, a more traditional leadership style could create more stability and structure in large organizations or those with complex hierarchies. There are times when organizations need clear lines of authority and definitive decision-making to create clarity.

Nonetheless, the research seems to show that a more modern approach is going to lead to more positive outcomes in hiring and retaining employees, creativity, innovation, and the kind of agility that businesses need to maintain their competitive advantage in today’s marketplace. Authoritarian leadership was born out of the industrial era when directive and controlling leadership was thought to be the best approach to managing and monitoring employees and their progress in a production-oriented environment. In today’s competitive employment environment, workers are looking for inclusion, collaboration, flexibility, fairness, and social equality. Business leaders who chose to ignore the needs of the modern workforce could be at risk for high turnover and the related negative impacts of not being able to retain good workers. So, the bottom-line is that passing old leadership techniques that do not work with today’s workforce to the next generation of leaders is a mistake.

We want to give you some new habits that will help you and your leaders become more adept at enlisting, empowering, and encouraging your employees so that they will be more likely to stick around.

When we say “new school leadership” what comes to mind?

There is a list of traits that we think of when it comes to modern leadership, including:

● being results driven with a willingness to change how things are done for the betterment of the organization and for improved outcomes rather than maintaining the status quo.
● a strong commitment to the continuous learning of themselves and their employees because keeping up to date with industry trends, knowledge, and skills leads to improved results.
● being agents of change and progress by setting goals that advance the organization and being willing to adapt quickly.
● having a focus on employee empowerment and flexibility which leads to increased job satisfaction and higher levels of motivation, productivity, and retention.

In our leadership training series, one of our early exercises is to identify and compare the traits of a “good boss” and a “bad boss.” Attendees consistently identify many of the traits of authoritarian leadership in their description of a “bad boss” referring to micromanaging, being hyper-critical in an effort to improve performance, and being too controlling. In contrast, many traits that are offered under the “best boss” category are “new school” leadership strategies such as openly sharing information, being invested in the wellbeing, career goals, contributions, and accomplishments of their employees; prioritizing connection as a means to achieve the outcomes and results they are seeking to advance their businesses.

Throughout my career, I have heard leaders complain about different generations and, oftentimes, throwing up their hands in frustration. However, when it comes to the changes we are all faced with in terms of the current labor shortage and the fact that the younger generations have entered the workforce with the most education in history, we have to at least take into consideration how their needs could be different from what we are traditionally accustomed to and have some willingness to make changes to maintain our viability as a workplace and business.

While that frustration that leaders sometimes have towards younger generations can be understandable, we need to understand that there are many styles of leadership, and that the styles also change throughout the generations. Today’s leaders must ask themselves where they would be if their past supervisors had given up on them. One thing remains true, you cannot copy and paste leadership strategies and hope they work. You must learn to adapt to every situation and understand that just because it worked for you doesn’t mean it will work for another person.

I invite you to consider responding to the following questions: Does your team make their own list of your “good boss/worst boss” traits? What are different strategies you have used across generations in the workplace? If you were to make a list of “good boss” traits, how well are you “walking the talk” on this list?

The Personnel Perspective has provided outsourced HR consulting and talent development programs to California-based employers since 1987. The firm’s core belief is that a company achieves organizational excellence through its people. Contact us to learn more: (707) 576-7653.