“Leaving the Top-Down Model Behind”

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20th Century Leadership

Throughout the last century, many supervisors saw their role as that of manager when running organizations or teams. This practice was heavily influenced by thought leaders of the day.

“To manage is to forecast and plan, to organize, to command, & to control”
~ Fayol,Henry. General and Industrial Management. Trans. C. Storrs. London: Sir Isaac Pitman & Sons, 1949. Print.

~ Luther Gullick

Planning, Organizing, Staffing, Directing, Controlling
~ Harold Koontz and Cyril O’Donnell

Top-Down LeadershipAll these definitions imply top down control. They also assume that managers have all the answers and ideas to stay ahead of competition and to grow operations. Consequently, leadership meant telling, controlling and commanding. At best, leaders saw themselves as benevolent parents looking after children who needed their guidance.

Leadership for the 21st Century
A leader functioning only as a manager is no longer an effective or appropriate role for building teams and achieving consistent results. Research over the last twenty years indicates that the role of leaders needs to change to accommodate workplace changes.

Current realities in the workplace include:

  • rapid technological advancements
  • greater domestic and international competition
  • multiple generations in the workplace
  • more knowledge workers
  • workers who expect to have more say in the organization

As thought leader Dr. Steve Stowell put it, “Leaders will need to instill a new competitive spirit in employees to streamline work, reduce errors, respond to customer needs, and solve challenging problems.” (Stowell and Starcevich, 1)

Thoughts to Consider

  • What changes have you needed to make to your leadership style? What necessitated that change?
  • What advice would you give other leaders who are dealing with today’s workplace challenges?

Coming up next:
Transforming the role of the leader to give the best to and get the best out of a team.

Further Reading:
Stowell, Steven, and Matt Starcevich. The Coach: Creating Partnerships for a Competitive Edge. 1987. Sandy City: The Center for Management and Organization Effectiveness, 2014. Print.

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