Leadership in the corporate world is currently undergoing an existential crisis of its own making, which is severely hampering business from becoming a force for good or real value.
These days it increasingly looks like the curtain has finally fallen on the concept of the traditional leader: the ‘imperial’ CEO, who runs his corporate kingdom like an ego-fuelled emperor of old. Think the morals of Caligula mixed with the brutality of Nero and you’re not too far off the traditional CEO archetype. Wall Street, Wolf of Wall Street…
The imperial leader is in their element when business is fixated with profit and measurement. Quantification rules because it both quells dissent and helps the predator weed out the weaker members of their organisation. The rules of business are simple under the imperial leader, yet all too often, and frustratingly, opaque. What’s more, temperate reformers need not apply because it’s almost impossible to change the rules of power from the inside.
Essentially this is what it is all about: power. Power is the golden ticket to making change. It is the reason why leaders like the traditional CEO hoard it and use it to enforce their own self-interests whilst simultaneously blocking any coup d’état . Yet all this is slowly coming to an end as businesses, forced out into the cold by the recent financial crisis, are now pushing for much needed change in an attempt to reconnect with the public, who is both their customer and employee. Rather than self-serving motives, what’s now needed is a leader who understands the importance of both nurturing and distributing power.
Out step the new, progressive leaders. People steeped in social progressivism and in the values of tolerance and diversity. These are leaders who understand that businesses serve more than the singular narrow function of making money. They see their business as a social organism and act purposefully, investing in job creation, corporate citizenship and improving the work/life balance for their employees. At a time when public funds are dwindling, the new leaders step forward to plug the hole and improve society. Rather than suits and ties, they wear sunglasses and sneakers; drink frapes rather than cristal. They are the new school rather than the aged emperors.
An important article published in The Guardian last week listed the 30 characteristics of the new, socially responsive leader, and I have listed 10 of the best here as a checklist for anyone wanting to match their credentials against the ideal:
- Values life above profit
- Happy to delegate
- Inclusive learning