COVER STORY The New Leaders

The term ‘boss’ no longer captures what the name suggests. He or she may head the business but bossiness is out, culled along with the old command-and-control model of management.
Power games have given way to power sharing, autocracy abandoned in favour of meritocracy and dog-eat-dog competition is, they say, losing ground to win-win co-operative deals. And the hectoring bully who treats workers like separate class of being is marked for extinction. The ‘boss’ has transformed into leader and personal style has more to do with generating inspiration than perspiration.
But while there is more emphasis on caring, sharing and fun, new model leaders are not softies. They empower others but in return expect accountability. Employees must live up to the trust placed in them.
There are several reasons why management and leadership styles are moving from the autocratic mould, moving instead down more emotionally intelligent tracks. The faster-paced, more knowledge-intensive business environment is one influence. No individual can now keep up with all the issues and information that is factored into decision making.
“Managers can’t afford to be hierarchical because the skills required in business are constantly changing,” says Sheffield consultancy partner Ian Taylor. “Young adults emerge from the education system with skills that are immediately applicable and those need to be captured. Flatter structures, shared power allow that.”
And then there’s the shift in worker expectations. The XY generations (30-somethings and down) want to work in more egalitarian environments, in part, says Taylor, because they’ve come through an education system that is supportive of the idea that everyone has talent to contribute to the whole.
“Pragmatically speaking, there is wisdom in retention policy that values all employees relatively equally. People buy in for the long term on the basis of their ability to share and develop in an environment. Unless you, as an employer, send out those signals and give people the opportunity to develop, be trained, share in the organisation’s evolution, then you’ll get churn.”
The change in leadership styles also reflects changing societal values worldwide. recent article by Booz Allen Hamilton vice president and business strategist Klaus-Peter Gushurst characterises the new leadership as “sober, spirited and spiritual”. Today’s leadership styles, he says, “combine the classic values of discipline and execution with the contemporary values of openness and natural expression”.
Local economic commentator Brian Gaynor, on the other hand, describes those who are now heading New Zealand companies as more professional, knowledgeable and better at promoting those under them. “I always thought New Zealand leadership was about standing on the fourth rung of the ladder and kicking anyone wanting to come up. These guys are heading for the fifth, sixth and seventh rungs and simultaneously encouraging everyone to come up with them,” says Gaynor.
They are movers and motivators. They are, however, lot less likely to try and control situations or to seek the limelight, according to Gaynor. Even couple of the CEOs approached for this article declined on the grounds that they’d be happy talking about their organisation or business in general, but not about themselves.
The five we eventually selected for interview come from different backgrounds and work in different industries but, in various ways, each touched on the common themes of empowerment and inclusion, respect, openness and integrity, inspiration and aspiration.
They also talk about the importance of values, espouse corporate social responsibility and share determination that their family life and personal interests are not sacrificed to work commitments.

Empowering/inclusive
“Great discoveries these days are not made by individuals. They are made by the collaborative effort of several people often in different parts of the world,” says Siemens New Zealand CEO Graeme Sumner.
Accordingly, he believes the environment in which he works determines, in part, the management style he needs to adopt. It’s fast-paced, high-tech world that relies heavily on the knowledge and skills of those working in it. “People must be empowered to make decisions and operate in broad framework,” says Sumner.
The company’s eight divisions span knowledge base ranging from power stations and telecommunication networks to hospital scanning equipment and hearing aids. It runs local and global projects from head office with around 100 people. Depending on the size of current projects, its annual turnover varies from $30 million to $300 million.
“Organisations like ours are quite thin. Our crews travel the globe, they have to make decisions on their own and enjoy both the upside and potential risk of that,” he adds.
Alongside empowerment goes high level of integrity, excellent communication, and ability to collaborate, all characteristics Sumner seeks to instil in the organisational culture.
Honesty and integrity also inform decision-making. The company established framework to help establish which projects it accepts and its values include staying true to this plan. “We respect the opinions of people who know what they’re talking about and often that’s not me. I don’t pretend to have all the knowledge. I have to trust the people who do know what they’re talking about to use knowledge for the good of the organisation,” says Sumner.
‘Collaborative’ and ‘collegial’ spring to mind when considering his own management style. It has to be adapted to the differing demands of the different industries in which Siemens operates. “But it all goes back to the core style of collaboration because you can’t make good quality decisions on your own in this environment. You need input from number of people,” he adds.
This doesn’t mean all his decisions are collaborative or popular. “There are times when parts of the business have been in trouble when you must adopt different style to cut through and make decision which, if put to popular vote, wouldn’t pass muster. In those situations it becomes rather more lonely job.”
Environment Waikato CEO Harry Wilson works in different world but espouses similarly inclusive management style. It is based on engaging people, listening to what everyone has to say and building sense of participation. “Decision-making is as inclusive as it can be,” he says. “It’s not abdication or consensus but it is about listening to others and being prepared to change your view in response to what you hear.”
Wilson talks about instilling the concept of “respect” and encouraging people to show respect for others, staff or customers, while being prepared to discipline those who show lack of respect.
Characteristics he wants to build into the organisational structure include long-term focus, recognition of people’s contribution and some fun. Wilson plays in band which he sees as an analogy for management style he describes as “quirky”, participative and inclusive.
“I don’t write anything,” he explains. “I practise management by conversation. You find out so much more about what’s happening around the organisation that way than by ploughing through the in-tray and emails.”
He doesn’t follow management fads, believing that he learns more by studying what makes social groups – friends, families and such like – work. “The most valuable things you can introduce to the workplace are to do with making people feel connected, motivated and part of the social group.”

Inspiration and aspiration
Jane Sweeney aims to build similar work culture. It is one in which people feel supported, free to speak up, where ideas are fed and watered, and honest feedback is honestly encouraged.
Formerly CEO of public relations consultancy Consultus, Sweeney has recently been appointed managing director of global PR company Porter Novelli’s New Zealand operation. Hers is world in which leaders are only as good as their las

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