The New Style of Leadership – Featured On The Strait Times (6 Oct 2016)


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The New Style of Leadership.
The new leader today lives without the title.

A conversation I had with a senior leader was about how leadership today is evolving not just by how the economy is performing, but the standard people expect from their leaders today. People are not interested in coming to work, but being led. But there must be a leader whom they want to follow. This is what I call leadership by the favor of the people.

What is True Leadership?

The conventional leaders that we come across are promoted based not by the favor of the people, but by the number of key performance indicators (KPI) they achieved and their technical competencies. They are promoted through a system and not through people.

KPI are of course important – after all, they pay the salaries. But if we put leadership into the equation, they are secondary, because leadership is about growing people. Growing people is profitable over the long term. Growing people needs to be a KPI for a leader.

But why are there leaders who do not seem to understand this equation? This is because in an organization system of promotion, there is no element called the favor of the people.

A leader with the greatest influence is usually the one who does not believe in having a title. With or without one, they can master the resources required and rally people forward with a cause. They treat people with respect, understand the importance of receiving favors from their people and place everyone on the same level playing field including themselves.

Here are three ways leaders who lead without titles are likely to succeed with people.

It Is About Them, Not You.

Leader need to listen more than they speak and learn more quickly than they talk. People who lead without title are not concerned if people overtake them. After all, the key responsibility of a leader is ensuring his or her people succeed and go further than he or she can.

When a person becomes a leader, he or she should create a safe ground for others to share and shine, support their thinking with his or her view and calibrate the solution. Being a leader requires one to put others ahead of one’s needs. The people are the stars, not the leader.

Don’t Try Too Hard.

Leaders who try too hard end up trying to micro-manage and having the answer to everything. That is not how what a leader should be. Leader who lead without a title are not too concerned about whether the people in the room notice their presence.

A leader I came across had an ego issue. Every time his team members raises an issue or had a perspective from him, he would try to convince them on the pretext of “friendly advice that they are wrong and he was right.

After some time, no one bothered to speak up any more. In short, he is surrounded by people who do not speak up because he does not listen. The team is unmotivated due to his leadership style. A leader who does not listen loses credibility. No amount of years of experience can make up for it.

Put People’s Growth First.

A leader who does not believe in a title but creates opportunities for everyone in the team increases his or her credibility. This allows the leader to create fairness in the system where everyone has a chance to grow.

People leave an organization because they are no longer growing. Leaders need to acknowledge that if they do not take responsibility for their people’s growth, they will lose them.

People leave because of people, but stay because of the leader. So are you a leader who can afford to lead without a title?