Gone are the days, where the manager of a company could do whatever he wished, only because he wore a tie and a nice suit. Generation Y is now streaming into the workplaces and demanding respect and fair treatment. Leading people became a much more complex challenge. But what is really happening and how do companies respond to the ever-increasing challenge?
From survival mode to YOLO
My grandparents grew up in Germany in a country which was trying to cope with the aftermath of two world wars. The aim was to survive and to live in peace. Work was rare, and life was hard. Through the hard work of my grandparent’s generation, my parents could enjoy life much more. The unemployment rate decreased to a minimum, but you can be sure the stories of their parents were clinging in their ears about the war and their hard life-circumstances. Taking it for granted wasn’t an option.
Now as Generation Y and Z are streaming into the workplaces things are changing. Today’s generation grew up in a time of abundance. We may sometimes still talk about poverty, but really, we have never experienced real poverty compared to what our grandparents or people in the 3rd world go through. Life is no longer about survival and peace anymore but about YOLO. You only live once, make the most of it.
Life must be fun, and unfortunately, work still fills out most of our days. So, what’s the solution: Work must be fun. Today we rather earn less and have a fun work environment and have a boss who treats us as his best buddy. If he doesn’t we move back to “Hotel Mum”, travel around the world and in the meantime look for a better job.
Companies struggle more and more to find motivated good workers. The fluctuation rate is increasing every year. Companies are dared to change and to adapt to the new challenges, and they do – Dress codes are thrown overboard, tie and suit are outdated, socials are a regular occurrence, everything is done to keep the worker happy, so the work gets done.
For me, as Manager of the nSpire Group, the right response to the increasing challenge is Servant Leadership. I do believe that work must be done, but I also do believe that if it is possible to make work pleasant and therefore my workers are happier, and more work can be done.
Robert K. Greenleaf defined Servant Leadership very well, he said:
“The servant-leader is servant first… It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first… That person is sharply different from one who is leader first, perhaps because of the need to assuage an unusual power drive or to acquire material possessions…The leader-first and the servant-first are two extreme types.”
What Greenleaf basically is saying is that a servant Leader is thinking about others first. He is more concerned about the desires and goals of others than about his own tasks and achievements. He wants the whole company to flourish, and he is aware that his employees are his most valuable treasure. He treasures the time of his employees and will not steal their time, so they can get his things done. He sees it as his task to lead by example, serve his employees in the best possible way he can and invest into them. He is not afraid of the potential loss of power or respect if he gets down on his knees and serves his employees.
His authority doesn’t come from his big suit and tie but from either his good relationship with his employees, so they trust him and want to follow him, or even because they can see they personally grow and develop under the influence of his leadership.
John Maxwell talks in his book ‘5 Levels of Leadership’ about the stages every Leader has to go through. The first level is ‘Position’. People follow you because they have to. Many leaders are stuck in this stage and complain about the missing results from their employees. As soon as a leader moves from ‘Position’ to ‘Permission – people follow you because they want to or even ‘People Development’. You don’t need to show off anymore what a great leader you are and command your staff around, rather you realise the needs of your staff and try to serve them, so they can be more successful.
Servant Leadership creates an environment which is based on honour and respect which generates happy employees, but it comes at a cost. Servant Leadership cost time, it takes time until people trust you and follow you, it takes investment and it can only be done if the whole management believes in this model. It can’t be done to gain. It has to be done because the leadership believes in it.
What are your experiences with different leadership models? Would you agree with me?