• Wednesday, April 17, 2024
businessday logo

BusinessDay

The Future is follower-focused leadership

Leadership is about serving humanity

In this concluding piece of our series, we venture into the future of follower-focused leadership. We have previously explored the essence and benefits of this leadership style, now let’s examine the emerging trends that will shape its trajectory and how leaders can adapt to stay ahead of the curve.

The advent of remote work, hastened by the COVID-19 pandemic, has necessitated a shift in traditional leadership styles. Physical distance has created a new virtual proximity, resulting in unique challenges and opportunities for follower-focused leadership.

In this new paradigm, leaders must find innovative ways to foster a sense of belonging and maintain engagement in a virtual space. The follower-focused leader in a remote environment must be adept at creating an inclusive virtual culture, embracing transparency, and leveraging technology to facilitate seamless communication and collaboration. For instance, GitLab, a completely remote company, has successfully fostered a strong culture of inclusivity and collaboration by implementing regular video conferencing, and team-building activities, and fostering an open-door policy, even in a digital realm.

In this new paradigm, leaders must find innovative ways to foster a sense of belonging and maintain engagement in a virtual space. The follower-focused leader in a remote environment must be adept at creating an inclusive virtual culture, embracing transparency, and leveraging technology to facilitate seamless communication and collaboration.

The shift to remote work also creates a more diverse and geographically dispersed workforce. This necessitates follower-focused leaders who can navigate cultural differences and foster inclusivity, thereby creating an environment where everyone feels valued and heard. IBM, with its culturally diverse workforce, has been a paragon of inclusivity, fostering a climate where employees, irrespective of their geographical location or cultural background, feel heard.

As artificial intelligence and automation continue to revolutionise the workplace, the value of uniquely human skills like emotional intelligence (EI) is on the rise. EI – the ability to understand, use, and manage your own emotions in positive ways to relieve stress, communicate effectively, empathise with others, overcome challenges, and defuse conflict is particularly relevant to follower-focused leadership. For example, Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, has been instrumental in transforming the company’s culture by emphasising EI, leading to increased collaboration and innovation.

Artificial Intelligence may automate tasks, but it cannot replicate the human capability for empathy, understanding, and emotional connection. Leaders who can demonstrate high EI will be better equipped to build trust, foster open dialogue, and cultivate a follower-centric culture. They will also be better at managing change, a critical skill as the pace of technological advancement accelerates.

Tools like the Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test (MSCEIT) can help leaders assess and improve their EI.

We now have Multigenerational Workforce Dynamics. With Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z all sharing the workplace, leaders face the challenge of managing a multigenerational workforce. Each generation brings its own set of values, expectations, and work styles. Follower-focused leaders will need to understand and respect these differences and create an environment where each generation can contribute to its fullest potential. For example, companies like Johnson & Johnson have successfully managed multigenerational workforces by promoting intergenerational collaboration and learning.

The key is to encourage intergenerational collaboration and learning. Follower-focused leaders can leverage the diverse strengths of each generation, fostering a culture of mutual respect and shared purpose. They can encourage mentorship programs where older generations share their experiences, and younger generations bring fresh perspectives.

So, how can leaders prepare for these future challenges and continue to grow as follower-focused leaders?

Firstly, leaders need to invest in continuous learning. This could involve attending leadership development programs, participating in webinars and conferences, or engaging in self-directed learning through books, podcasts, and online courses.

Secondly, leaders should seek feedback from their followers regularly. This could be through formal processes like performance reviews, or informal channels like one-on-one conversations. Tools like Officevibe or SurveyMonkey can facilitate this.

Lastly, leaders should engage with their peers and mentors for support and guidance. Building a strong network of other leaders can provide valuable insights and perspectives and offer a sounding board for ideas and challenges.

As we look to the future, it’s clear that the demands on leaders will continue to evolve. The rise of remote work, the growing importance of emotional intelligence, and the complexity of managing a multigenerational workforce all point to a future where follower-focused leadership is more important than ever before. It has the potential to impact various aspects of the organisation, from employee retention to innovation.

To navigate this future successfully, leaders need to be adaptable, empathetic, and committed to continuous learning. They need to listen to their followers, value their input, and tailor their leadership style to meet their followers’ needs.

So, to all the leaders out there, I encourage you to embrace follower-focused leadership. Harness its power to create a more engaged and productive workforce. Your followers are your greatest asset. Listen to them, learn from them, and lead with them in mind. The future of leadership is follower-focused, and the future is now.

Remember, the best leaders are those who understand that their success is intrinsically tied to the success of their followers. So, lead with empathy, lead with understanding, and most importantly, lead with a follower-focused mindset. The future of your organisation depends on it.

About the Author

**Dr. Toye Sobande is a strategic leadership expert, lawyer, public speaker, and trainer. He is the CEO of Stephens Leadership Consultancy LLC, a strategy and management consulting firm offering creative insight and solutions to businesses and leaders. Email: [email protected]

The Future is Follower-Focused Leadership

Toye Sobande

Q: In this new paradigm, leaders must find innovative ways to foster a sense of belonging and maintain engagement in a virtual space. The follower-focused leader in a remote environment must be adept at creating an inclusive virtual culture, embracing transparency, and leveraging technology to facilitate seamless communication and collaboration.

In this concluding piece of our series, we venture into the future of follower-focused leadership. We have previously explored the essence and benefits of this leadership style, now let’s examine the emerging trends that will shape its trajectory and how leaders can adapt to stay ahead of the curve.

The advent of remote work, hastened by the COVID-19 pandemic, has necessitated a shift in traditional leadership styles. Physical distance has created a new virtual proximity, resulting in unique challenges and opportunities for follower-focused leadership.

In this new paradigm, leaders must find innovative ways to foster a sense of belonging and maintain engagement in a virtual space. The follower-focused leader in a remote environment must be adept at creating an inclusive virtual culture, embracing transparency, and leveraging technology to facilitate seamless communication and collaboration. For instance, GitLab, a completely remote company, has successfully fostered a strong culture of inclusivity and collaboration by implementing regular video conferencing, and team-building activities, and fostering an open-door policy, even in a digital realm.

The shift to remote work also creates a more diverse and geographically dispersed workforce. This necessitates follower-focused leaders who can navigate cultural differences and foster inclusivity, thereby creating an environment where everyone feels valued and heard. IBM, with its culturally diverse workforce, has been a paragon of inclusivity, fostering a climate where employees, irrespective of their geographical location or cultural background, feel heard.

As artificial intelligence and automation continue to revolutionise the workplace, the value of uniquely human skills like emotional intelligence (EI) is on the rise. EI – the ability to understand, use, and manage your own emotions in positive ways to relieve stress, communicate effectively, empathise with others, overcome challenges, and defuse conflict is particularly relevant to follower-focused leadership. For example, Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, has been instrumental in transforming the company’s culture by emphasising EI, leading to increased collaboration and innovation.

Artificial Intelligence may automate tasks, but it cannot replicate the human capability for empathy, understanding, and emotional connection. Leaders who can demonstrate high EI will be better equipped to build trust, foster open dialogue, and cultivate a follower-centric culture. They will also be better at managing change, a critical skill as the pace of technological advancement accelerates.

Tools like the Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test (MSCEIT) can help leaders assess and improve their EI.

We now have Multigenerational Workforce Dynamics. With Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z all sharing the workplace, leaders face the challenge of managing a multigenerational workforce. Each generation brings its own set of values, expectations, and work styles. Follower-focused leaders will need to understand and respect these differences and create an environment where each generation can contribute to its fullest potential. For example, companies like Johnson & Johnson have successfully managed multigenerational workforces by promoting intergenerational collaboration and learning.

The key is to encourage intergenerational collaboration and learning. Follower-focused leaders can leverage the diverse strengths of each generation, fostering a culture of mutual respect and shared purpose. They can encourage mentorship programs where older generations share their experiences, and younger generations bring fresh perspectives.

So, how can leaders prepare for these future challenges and continue to grow as follower-focused leaders?

Firstly, leaders need to invest in continuous learning. This could involve attending leadership development programs, participating in webinars and conferences, or engaging in self-directed learning through books, podcasts, and online courses.

Secondly, leaders should seek feedback from their followers regularly. This could be through formal processes like performance reviews, or informal channels like one-on-one conversations. Tools like Officevibe or SurveyMonkey can facilitate this.

Lastly, leaders should engage with their peers and mentors for support and guidance. Building a strong network of other leaders can provide valuable insights and perspectives and offer a sounding board for ideas and challenges.

As we look to the future, it’s clear that the demands on leaders will continue to evolve. The rise of remote work, the growing importance of emotional intelligence, and the complexity of managing a multigenerational workforce all point to a future where follower-focused leadership is more important than ever before. It has the potential to impact various aspects of the organisation, from employee retention to innovation.

To navigate this future successfully, leaders need to be adaptable, empathetic, and committed to continuous learning. They need to listen to their followers, value their input, and tailor their leadership style to meet their followers’ needs.

So, to all the leaders out there, I encourage you to embrace follower-focused leadership. Harness its power to create a more engaged and productive workforce. Your followers are your greatest asset. Listen to them, learn from them, and lead with them in mind. The future of leadership is follower-focused, and the future is now.

Remember, the best leaders are those who understand that their success is intrinsically tied to the success of their followers. So, lead with empathy, lead with understanding, and most importantly, lead with a follower-focused mindset. The future of your organisation depends on it.

About the Author

**Dr. Toye Sobande is a strategic leadership expert, lawyer, public speaker, and trainer. He is the CEO of Stephens Leadership Consultancy LLC, a strategy and management consulting firm offering creative insight and solutions to businesses and leaders. Email: [email protected]