Evolving Leadership Style to Accommodate Technology Innovation
By Bill Holgate, Director of Solution Architects, cStor
In 2021, innovation is accelerating at such a rate that traditional leadership and management norms are evolving to keep up. Top-down leadership with typical management roles no longer provides the agility for companies to stay ahead of their competition. Instead, managers must shift to serving in and developing leadership roles at all levels. This shift can be seen across the board at successful companies that are at the top of their markets.
Management vs. Leadership Style
The traditional roles of management vs. leadership are illustrated in the following styles.
- The manager administers; the leader innovates.
- The manager maintains; the leader develops.
- The manager focuses on systems and structure; the leader focuses on people.
Harvard Business School Professor, John Kotter, wrote, “Leadership is the creation of positive, non-incremental change, including the creation of a vision to guide that change—a strategy—the empowerment of people to make the vision happen despite obstacles and the creation of a coalition of energy and momentum that can move that change forward.” By focusing on strategic objectives and implementing positive changes that empower employees to work towards those goals, a manager becomes a leader.
Professor Joe Fuller, who teaches the online course Management Essentials at Harvard, relayed his thoughts on how management compares. “Management is getting the confused, misguided, unmotivated, and misdirected to accomplish a common purpose on a regular, recurring basis,” Fuller said. “I think the ultimate intersection between leadership and management is an appreciation for what motivates and causes individuals to behave the way they do, and the ability to draw out the best of them with a purpose in mind.”
Here is where Fuller hits on the key to promoting leadership at all management levels within a company. By encouraging managers to learn what motivates their employees and integrating that into the common purpose and goals of each department, branch, division and within the company as a whole, the company experiences a growth mindset as managers shift to become leaders. With the proper levels of trust, understanding, transparency and guidance, employees are then free to be creative and contribute in ways a traditional management style does not allow.
Shifting to a leadership mindset is most critical when combined with the adaptation of technology. For companies to use rapidly changing technology in effective ways, employees must first have a solid understanding of company goals and processes. They can then focus on how changing technology can be used to make critical improvements that enable the attainment of their personal goals, department-level goals or company-wide objectives. Within this process, managers can either inhibit it or stop it from evolving altogether. However, leaders – at all levels of a company – can motivate, encourage risk-taking, re-focus failures and recognize success, a critical requirement to allow the agility needed to keep pace with change.