The New Shining Ruler
New Rules of Engagement in the Corporate World
It was the land of the kings, the queens and the demon slayers. It was the time of the brave, the alive and the undead. Mysterious times; times that summoned witches, dragons, demons, dark nights and wars. Times that put the power to rule in the hands of a few while others followed, mechanically and mindlessly, because that is all they knew.
In such times, we had a fearless and mighty king. His kingdom was his stage, his ministers and knights his tools and his subjects his audience. Not sure if this word was used widely then but the King had ‘charisma’. When he drew his sword from his sheath at the top of the mountain and called his people to war, they followed blindly, enthusiastically and faithfully. When he ordered them to give half of their income to serve the state, they willingly complied; when he shared tales of his battles and described the fearful enemy he had battled and survived, they listened in awe and pledged their undying devotion. He was their Messiah, their salvation—in God they may not believe, but in him, they did.
From Kingdoms to Corporate Life
Don’t you think a lot of the companies that were at their peak till a few years ago, idolized this kind of leadership? I am sure the few lines above conjured up the image of at least one leader you have known or experienced! And why not – this type of leadership is the in-your-face kind - visible, audible and can’t be ignored. It inspires, it evokes emotion, and it gets people to sign up to things they would never have ventured out to do on their own and it draws a reaction.
Don’t get me wrong, this style is not negative or positive, it just is a style. There are people who can do that because they are outgoing, driven and ambitious and will display loud or extrovert leadership characteristics. When people need a savior, that is the kind of leader they go looking for. Someone who will take quick decisions, stand up for those decisions, get people (the more the merrier) aligned to it and then fearlessly move ahead. This type of leader will have a mind of their own and will not tolerate anyone and anything that comes in the way once they have decided on a course of action.
Leader as an Authentic, Relatable Figure
As we navigate the complexities of the present era, marked by peace (though subject to debate), we find ourselves in a space shaped by over 80 years of post-WWII development. This period has afforded us the freedom to ascend Maslow's Pyramid toward its apex. Climbing this metaphorical pyramid is demanding more from our leaders and we discover that leadership has become a multifaceted endeavour.
Modern leaders are expected to do more than preside over boardroom battles. They are called to find joy in diverse activities such as playing the piano, cooking for their families, and establishing personal connections with every employee, delving into the intricacies of their lives—names, partners, children, mortgages, and more. A leader must seamlessly transition between commanding a room during town hall meetings, radiating vulnerability when connecting with employees, and comfortably addressing both thousands from a stage and a single employee at their doorstep, seeking understanding and patience. It is a delicate balance—one that aims to move beyond the glitzy facade of leadership and usher in a more authentic, relatable figure.
Leadership was once synonymous with a commanding persona necessary to secure followership. In times of uncertainty, the leader needed to step forward, leading teams through ambiguity to emerge victorious. This often meant pushing boundaries, demanding allegiance through charisma or fear, sometimes to the point of being labelled despots. The consequences were tangible—generations of sycophants, concentrated power leading to corporate downfalls, and destabilized teams when leadership veered off course.
However, in the contemporary landscape, one leadership style is no longer the norm. Leaders are expected to flex their styles based on situational demands. This poses a challenge for individuals, especially those not naturally inclined towards the extroverted spectrum. For instance, and I might take a creative license to generalise a bit, Asian leaders, shaped by cultural values of humility and compliance, may find it challenging to assert themselves in cultures that prioritize a louder voice and are often rejected by the system that requires more gregarious and outgoing style of leadership.
How does such a leader fare in organizations of today?
In the quest for leadership evolution, the Shining Ruler finds themselves in a complex organizational landscape where adaptability is key. Today's leaders are not only expected to navigate the external challenges but also take a closer look at their inner theater (Kets De Vries, 2006) and share what they can in the spirit of being vulnerable and authentic. Accustomed to leading from the front, they must now introspect and confront their own vulnerabilities. This shift challenges leaders to be not just directors of action but authentic beings who connect with their teams on a human level. Sharing personal stories, admitting mistakes, and expressing vulnerability are no longer signs of weakness but catalysts for building trust and fostering genuine connections.
As we redefine leadership, the emphasis is on leaders who are not only powerful decision-makers but empathetic listeners as well. The ability to understand the unique strengths and challenges of each team member is now seen as a leadership virtue. This personalized approach requires leaders to invest time in getting to know their employees beyond their professional roles—a task that goes beyond the traditional boundaries of a commanding presence.
Support for the Shining Ruler
How can leaders, particularly those who are naturally extrovert, adapt to this paradigm shift without compromising their authenticity?
One solution lies in the power of coaching. A skilled coach can assist leaders in navigating the nuances of their intrinsic style to help them discover their authentic leadership style. Through introspective sessions, leaders can uncover their unique strengths, identify areas for improvement, and develop strategies to connect genuinely with people around them.
This will further help them open up to actively seek out diverse perspectives within their teams, instead of telling them what to do. Encouraging an open dialogue where employees feel heard and valued, fosters an inclusive environment. This inclusivity is not just a corporate buzzword but a practical strategy for leveraging the collective intelligence of a diverse workforce.
In conclusion, the Shining Ruler of today must embrace the complexity of leadership in a world that demands more than just a loud and charismatic presence. By delving into the depths of their inner theater (Kets De Vries, 2006), leaders can evolve into authentic, empathetic, and adaptable guides who inspire not only through strength but through the power of shared humanity. As the curtains rise on this new era of leadership, the Shining Ruler takes center stage, not just as a commander but as a collaborator in the collective journey towards success.
Kets De Vries, M. (2006). The Leadership Mystique: Emotional Intelligence in the World of Work. Pearson Education Limited.
Puranik, A. (2023, May). The Reluctant King. A Different Lens. Retrieved from https://www.differentlens.co/p/the-reluctant-king?utm_source=post-email-title&publication_id=1144174&post_id=117304583&isFreemail=false