Leading the Way: Seeking the perfect leader for tomorrow's market
by Peter Urs Bender
The times have been and still are troubled. The one constant, however, is good leadership.
In prosperous times, good leadership can take us to extraordinary levels of success, while in bad times it can give us a sense of going in the right direction. We are constantly in search of a leader for the world, the nation, the conference and even our family. We are also looking for a leader from within ourselves - something that can give us confidence and help define personal goals. We all have problems and always will, but the clearer our personal mission is, the easier it is to overcome them.
How a leader behaves
If you look at historical photos, you can quickly pick out former leaders. The dress would be conservative and he, most likely, stood away from the group (often looking down upon it). How things have changed. Today's leaders are dressed like the rest of the group. George Bush, for instance, when addressing rescue workers in New York, was dressed very much like they were. He appeared very connected - one of the people, with his arm around the fire chief.
Previously the leader was usually male, while today with leader is frequently female. As a matter of fact, I believe it is the feminine qualities that count most in the making of a modern leader.
I predict the leader of the future will be, if not actually a woman, more like a woman - more like a caring mother than a stern father. Sharing and caring for the group will be the hallmarks of his or her character and worrying on an ongoing basis that the group will turn out well. The financial rewards may dwindle as well, but that is because the motive for leadership will not be as strongly associated with monetary gains as it is presently.
There will come a day when we will see more and more leaders working for less money. This is not exactly a new phenomenon, but it might seem strange in the face of executives who currently earn salaries in the millions, then walk away with the kitty if things go wrong.
Franklin D. Roosevelt, for instance, when he brought in his New Deal in 1933, made a point of hiring "dollar-a-year" men, who were executives renowned for their expertise. Often they were wealthy individuals who were asked to give of themselves for the betterment of their society. In Canada, the men who ran our wartime economy - C.D. Howe, Donald Gordon and others, were cut from the same mold.
History is bound to repeat itself and I am confident that in the future, we will encounter more leaders who care for people - not monetary rewards.
One of the most important facets of a leader is their ability to communicate. As a speaker with many years of platform experience, I can testify that the attention span of audiences and electorates is diminishing.
It used to be a cinch to grab everyone's attention with a PowerPoint presentation or high-impact video. Today's audiences demand to be more engaged on an emotional level.
This can still be achieved through a visual medium. For instance, baby pictures can create strong emotional connections with some people - racing cars with others.
The main point is that where flashy presentations used to connect with audiences instantly, today they do not. As audiences become more sophisticated, they want to connect with leaders on an emotional level. This means that leaders and speakers have to become more human, more believable, more open and more apparently vulnerable.
Factual information still has to remain part of the communication package, but the leader is expected to share more on the emotional side. Remember - facts do not bleed; people and their situations do.
Audiences will look for stories in which the leader has not only succeeded, but failed. They want to know about the things that went wrong, the tragedies leaders have experienced, problems that are tough to solve, things that are sacred or of worries that they have about the group, business or nation.
In a soon-to-be-published book, Eugene Griessman, a well-known American author and speaker, urges business leaders to consider running an "open-book" management policy. He suggests showing employees the books, enlisting their aid and asking them to invest in the company. If the information is available to the stock market, it should be available to the company's own employees. By the same token, if the information is available to the group's or the country's leaders, it should be available to members and citizens.
All this does not mean the leader has to wash their dirty linen in public, but it does encourage being warm, open and honest in communication.
Because of a recent downturn in our economy, hardship in the work force and the uncertainty of reaching inner peace, we need a leader now, more than ever, who can get the message across in a warm and friendly manner, without making a joke of it.
Peter Urs Bender is one of Canada’s most dynamic and entertaining business speakers. He lives and works out of Toronto. He is the author of four best-selling business books: Leadership from Within, Secrets of Power Presentations, Secrets of Power Marketing, Secrets of Face-to-Face Communication, and Gutfeeling.
To read excerpts from his books visit www.PeterUrsBender.com.