I have been spending some time recently talking with leaders, picking their brains a bit. Because I’m a firm believer that good leadership is good leadership regardless of industry, I haven’t limited these conversations to educational leaders only. A couple of weeks ago, I had the privilege of speaking with Mark Ackley, Executive Vice President of Nueterra Capital. We were discussing the ways leadership has changed throughout our careers.
Mark had this to say, “I was born in 1961. When I entered the workforce, this was the leadership style: Leaders wore suits, commanded respect, sat at the head of the table, loyalty was never challenged. This has evolved to where leaders are more integrated with their teams and become more teammates than what we call the traditional leader. [Strong leaders] have really changed from “command and control” to a more humble, team-oriented outlook. There is no way you can manage millennials in the same way you managed Baby Boomers. You have to change to meet their needs or you are doing the whole organization an injustice. Unfortunately, there are many people who don’t understand that leadership styles must evolve. They still think they are kings/queens as opposed to leading an organization. The starting point is recognizing that there is no RIGHT way. There’s just a way. There is an objective to meet.”
His passion for relational leadership echoes my own, so I couldn’t help but spend time pondering his thoughts as they related to my own experiences. My professional experiences all take place in the education arena. I have worked with both types of leaders. The “traditional” boss wanted people to feel like they had input, but we really had very little. He very much wanted to be the “smartest guy in the room”. This led to a disjointed team, that he ran through fear rather than a collaborative spirit. High turnover in that administrative team comes with no surprise.
Other leaders I’ve worked with are more evolved in their leadership styles. They seek ways to build their teams, show their employees that they are valued and an important part of the organization. These are the leaders I want to learn from. They are the ones I want to work with.
Michael Jaber, Coordinator of Instructional Technology at Sheboygan Area School District had similar points. He said, “I believe that there is more of a collaborative approach to leadership now. Many “old school” leaders use a top-down approach to leadership and that style is not as successful as it once was. The leader of today needs to be an equal and empower the staff that works for them.”
How do you empower your team? I’d love to hear your leadership stories.