The modern digital era is upon us, and it comes with its own unique set of challenges that these new-age digital leaders need to face. It is easy to dismiss this change as a technological one alone, but the reality today is the modern leader can is met with far more complex challenges than just a decade or two ago. These range from the changing demographics of the modern workforce through to maintaining personal mental health in a 24/7 always-on world.
That's why we wanted to share some of the challenges we have witnessed when working with leaders across many different fields, and the strategies that work to succeed.
While millennials seem to be the subject of a plethora of outraged articles about how the next generation are all snowflakes and not interested in working hard (which isn't true, by the way) it can be difficult to recognise what the truth is when hiring young people for the workplace.
Perhaps this quote could sum up the perception of the 'snowflakes' of today:
"The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannise their teachers.”
Whilst this may be true of our view of young people today, that quote was actually from Socrates circa 400 BC! So while it may be true that each new generation comes with its own set of challenges for leaders, the reality is that many of these challenges are no different from when we were young.
Perhaps the most significant shift in our lifetimes when managing millennials has been the length of service in a particular role. The concept of a 'Job For Life' is dead, which means millennials tend to be on the look-out for a career change, and are likely to leave the workplace or even a field of expertise after a few years. They have grown up with mobile devices which naturally means they come with expectations of a flexible work environment. They have likely watched their peers and possibly even their parents work from home effectively and will expect the tools to be in place to enable this. An environment that is old-fashioned in terms of the “bums-in-the-seats” attitudes or the refusal to adjust to modern norms is not going to appeal to the best candidates.
Keeping up with the digital advancements
It wasn't that long ago that we all lived without cell phones, without tablets, and even without Wi-Fi Internet access, which, of course, is unthinkable today. However, the progress regarding digital environments hasn't stopped, it keeps going and at an even faster pace. This means that there are new tools available for your business that might just be developed.
Keeping up with the digital doesn't mean mindlessly adopting every new thing, but it does mean being on the lookout for useful tools, software, and hardware that can help make your business more efficient. It also means considering how to change your current work process to be simpler or smoother. For example, video conferencing software and other programs have made it easy for employees to work from home if they are correctly set up. Keeping up with the digital means adjusting your processes to work better with the help of the tools available to you.
Today, the world is changing faster than ever before. Not only do we have quick technological progress, but we also have a shifting marketplace. Trends and needs might quickly appear and then promptly disappear. For example, one needs to look at the trending topics: they shift with a lot of speed, some lasting less than a day.
This translates into an important leadership challenge: keeping up with the changes. You need to be aware of the changes that are occurring in the world concerning your business and always be willing to learn new things. This open and agile mindset will allow you to manage your work more effectively.
Maintaining your mental health
The world has become increasingly busy, especially for leaders. At times it can feel like everything, and everyone seems to be vying for your attention. So one of the significant challenges of the new digital landscape is keeping your mental health up despite all the noise and distractions. For many leaders, your phone and the others gadgets can be invaluable, but they may also be encouraging you to be permanently connected to work and employees. The inability to switch off can mean you get the mental rest they need to relax and truly disconnect from work and recharge yourself fully. The consequences of this always-on approach is usually a perpetual state of tiredness and increased levels of stress - which becomes a vicious cycle.
So learn to switch off, rely upon and trust colleagues to pick things up in your absence and set-up the game to win by using tools that can help automate some of the more standard activities. Mindfulness is a fundamental aspect of successful leadership; Not just being mindful of your decisions but also why you are making them. A decision made out of fear, tiredness or feeling rushed is rarely a good one. So build time into your day for yourself - even if it means getting up half an hour early and going for a walk. It's not self-indulgent or weak to look after your mental health - it's an essential part of leadership.
They do say it's lonely at the top and given the number of leaders we have worked with over the years, we can attest to the fact it doesn't need to be. Most modern leadership challenges are widespread, yet for many leaders, they assume the problems are unique to them, and so they suffer alone. Don't let that be you.
So many of the modern leadership challenges are less to do with technology and much more to do with traditional leadership skills. There are solutions out there, so don't be afraid to trust your instincts and expand your horizons with new challenges. Be mindful of yourself and the people around you. Be clear in your vision and don't let a fear of technology or a changing world distract you from succeeeding. In the long run, personally and professionally, the rewards will inevitably outweigh the risks.
If you would like to find out how we can support you with any of the topics raised in this blog post, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org or call on 0800 0293739.