What Leaders Must Do In 2017


In 2017, there will be a total solar eclipse, Elvis Presley’s Career Museum will open and more leaders will ask their employees to help them map out the future strategy and success of their companies.

That last prediction comes from Elise Olding, a research vice president with Gartner, Inc. who specializes in organizational and cultural change, and who is speaking at the Gartner Application Strategies and Solutions Summit this week.

The New Leadership Style

“The old leadership style used to be that leaders went off and created a strategy and then came back and told people what it would be,” she says. “The new leadership style is more like a 100K bike race. They tell people that we’re all going on this journey together. Even if you’re not a bike rider, the leaders are letting people know they’re going to take care of them. There will be rest stops and food and water along the way. They’ll pick them up if they need to.”

As organizations look for new ideas and strategies to keep them competitive, “it’s all about leadership changing from ‘I’m telling you’ to ‘let’s all figure out how we can get there together,’” she says.

Olding also believes that as part of this shift, more organizations are going to look for ways to delve into the talents that individual workers possess instead of trying to force them into cookie-cutter molds.

She cites the writing by Francesca Gino, the Tandon Family Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School. Specifically, Gino says her research shows that in a survey of 2,000 employees across a wide range of industries, almost half the respondents say they work in organizations that make them feel the need to conform and not question the status quo.

“Few leaders actively encourage deviant behavior in their employees; most go to great lengths to get rid of it. Yet nonconformity promotes innovation, improves performance, and can enhance a person’s standing more than conformity can,” Gino says.

Olding says that she sees more organizations trying to understand their natural biases, such as hiring people who “think like us,” or hiring diverse people but then “killing their innovation by killing their ideas.”

“You bring people in with different ideas, and then what do you tell them? ‘Oh, I give you six months and you’ll be thinking like the rest of us,’” Olding says. “Are you making them fit in or are you nurturing their ideas?”

In the “Power of Pull: How Small Moves, Smartly Made, Can Set Big Things in Motion,” authors John Hagel III and John Seely Brown note that companies are no longer places “that exist to drive down costs by getting increasingly bigger.”

“They’re places that support and organize talented individuals to get better faster by working with others. The rationale of the firm shifts from scalable efficiency to scalable learning—the ability to improve performance more rapidly and learn faster by effectively integrating more and more participants distributed across traditional institutional boundaries,” they write.

Olding says that leaders tend to run companies the way they’ve always been run, or “on folklore.” But if they’d tap into the thinking by people like Hagel and Brown, they’d understand that they can no longer do things “just because they were done that way in the past,” she says.

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