The command-and-control management approach has been prevalent for decades. It emphasises a hierarchical structure, which applies pressure from the top down. You may have experienced this in your own career, where leaders enforce orders and inflexible policies from a great distance, and team members have little to no input on the direction of their professional careers or the organisation itself.
However, a significant shift in the psychology of the workforce within the last two generations has meant that most employees no longer tolerate being intimidated and controlled. This has led to people choosing the company they want to work for based more on culture led by leaders who understand the need for empowerment and care.
How has this shift impacted the future of leadership, and what do leaders need to do differently to keep up with the times?
Leaders Need to be Effective Communicators
Modern leaders must interact with their teams on an interpersonal level and close the distance – institutional, behavioural and sometimes spatial – from their teams. The most effective way to close this gap is to prioritise holding alignment conversations with your team members.
Alignment conversations are crucial for ensuring that everyone in the organisation understands the purpose, vision, and the priorities, feels truly heard, and are collaborating to achieve the common goal. We have created an outline of primary steps to holding effective alignment conversations with your team.
Start With the Big Picture
It’s important to begin the conversation by framing it around the organisation’s overall purpose (the why), the vision (the what) and priorities (the how). This helps everyone understand how their work fits into the bigger picture and provides a sense of purpose for the conversation.
40% of team members surveyed by Gallup knew what their organisation stands for, and what separates them from their competitors. This can have a larger impact on profitability and engagement, as organisations with high levels of engagement are 22% more profitable than those with low levels of engagement. (1)
Share Information Openly
Trust is created by encouraging open dialogue and information sharing. This is why it’s so important to share information about the organisation’s performance, goals, and challenges, and be transparent about how decisions are made.
In fact, most team members report that their trust with managers is impacted because they don’t feel involved in this dialogue. While 81% of employees would rather work for a company that values open communication than one that simply offers perks. (2)
When you actively listen during an alignment conversation, you focus your attention on the speaker and work to understand their perspective fully. This involves not only hearing their words but also paying attention to their body language and other nonverbal cues.
By actively listening, you demonstrate to the speaker that you value their perspective and are genuinely interested in understanding their point of view. This helps to create a sense of trust and mutual respect, which is essential for effective collaboration and problem-solving.
According to a study by Gallup, teams that feel heard are 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to perform their best work. Additionally, companies with high levels of employee engagement see a 21% increase in profitability. (3)
Establish Clear Roles and Responsibilities
When everyone has a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities, it becomes easier to identify areas of overlap, potential conflicts, and opportunities for collaboration. It also makes it easier to identify any gaps or areas that may require additional support or resources to achieve the desired outcome.
Moreover, establishing clear roles and responsibilities helps to prevent misunderstandings and confusion, which can be a significant obstacle to alignment. When everyone knows what is expected of them, there is less risk of miscommunication and misinterpretation of tasks, deadlines, or priorities.
This is reinforced by a study from DDI, who found that “employees who understand their role and how it contributes to their organisation are 2.5 times more likely to be engaged than employees who don’t understand their role.” (4)
Follow Up and Follow Through
After the conversation, follow up to ensure that everyone is aligned and understands what needs to be done. Follow through on commitments and ensure that everyone is held accountable for their contributions to achieving the organisation’s goals.
The shift from command and control to conversational leadership has been driven by a shift in the way people want to be led and the level of contribution they want to have, leading to changes in how organisations operate. Effective alignment conversations are essential for promoting a conversational approach to leadership and ensuring that everyone in the organisation understands the goals and priorities.
- Gallup, (2017). ‘State of the American Workplace.’
- Lee, D. R., Hwang, J., & Lee, Y. K. (2017). ‘The effect of organizational transparency on employee engagement.’ Social Behaviour and Personality: An international journal, 45(6), 925-936. doi: 10.2224/sbp.6108
- Gallup. (2017). ‘Why employee engagement matters.’
- DDI. (2018). ‘The Global Leadership Forecast 2018: 25 Research Insights to Fuel Your People Strategy.’ Development Dimensions International.