My colleague Seija Malmi is doing 40 leadership interviews this year, as Mercuri Urval has been 40 years in Finland. I was honoured to represent the generation of leaders born in the 80’s. After the interview, my thinking process continued and I asked myself :”What is truly the one thing that is characteristic for leaders of my own generation?” However I approached the question, I always ended up thinking about transparency.
My own generation has learned to check any given truth online – on the spot. Whenever a speaker in a seminar is talking, people can in real-time check if the facts are correct. Employees are also requesting higher level of transparency and visibility into company’s strategy, financial situation and vision for the future. Culturally it is becoming more acceptable to challenge any managerial decisions, especially if this is done in a constructive way and keeping company’s best interest in mind. This, on the other hand, can be done only if people are familiar with company’s strategy.
From manager’s perspective the request for transparency sets the bar high what comes to managerial decision making. As information asymmetry balances and employees are both willing and competent to challenge the made decisions, the foundation for the decision-making needs to be more solid. Manager’s legitimacy for making decisions will be based more and more on habit of doing thorough analysis and the ability of utilising information and people around her, not just the authority given by title.
The positive aspect of more educated and challenging employees is that the quality of actual decisions will be better; not just through better prepared managers, but also through a corrective process of setting the made decisions under constructive criticism. In a safe corporate culture that allows people to give their second opinion to made decisions, the worst decisions won’t live until they are implemented. And through the constructive process of criticism the decisions that are actually well argued, will have a stronger possibility to create the desired change in a way company actually operates, as people understand and accept the reasons behind the decisions.
Long gone are the times where the greatness of a manager was measured in the size of his ego and the stubbornness of sticking to his decisions, no matter how bad and separate from reality they actually were. A true leader in the 21st century is analytical, pragmatic and humble enough to change the direction of her organisation whenever there are proper and valid arguments to do so.
Agile and analytic leaders not just make their organisations to win the battle in turbulent business environment, but they also attract the most potential employees, because the best people want to be in companies where they can see the big picture and where they can contribute, no matter their official title and place in organisation. Imagine how big impact it has to an organisation to get all the brains of the company to solve strategic problems, instead of just the brains in of CEO and the management team? Companies can be only as good as people are allowed to make them.