Be Less of a Manager and More of a Thought Leader

Leaders across the world are becoming more progressive in thought, yet uninspiring when it comes to having a vision. This leads to a disconnected workforce, demotivated employees, and in turn, a lack of innovative thinking. What organizations need to understand is that the concept of management and supervision originated and worked very well in the industrial era, which was more process oriented. However, it is gradually becoming ineffective and redundant as we find ourselves in the digital age, which requires more inventive and inspired thinking. To encourage innovators, a culture of experimentation and free thinking needs to be inculcated, which cannot be supported by managers, who primarily believe in monitoring and supervising only.

While the industries and the nature of trade has evolved, most companies are still stuck in the old- world methods of management and management pyramids taught in business schools and practised in traditional organizations for decades now. In their effort to hang on to the best practices of the past, they are not being able to keep pace with the transformation happening across the globe.

Why is managing becoming redundant?

In yesteryears, employees looked up to managers for expertise, knowledge and experience. Today, most of the knowledge is a click away, which makes the manager’s role even more irrelevant. The knowledge that they brought to the workplace is slowly being taken over by the internet, and their analytical capabilities are being replaced by data analytics and artificial intelligence. The routine tasks like deadline reminders or team communication have become far easier with the numerous apps available.

India has a very high number of young adults who are entering the workforce now. These millennials are incredibly tech savvy and believe in a work culture that is more collaborative and less controlling. They are not very open to the traditional hierarchy and the command and control structure. Perhaps that is why the new age Indian tech companies are looking at flatter organizational structures and open seating arrangement at the workplace.

It is time that Indian companies rethink the role of managers that are gradually becoming obsolete. However, while most of the managerial functions are being taken over by technology, there is one thing that still requires human intervention, and that is the task of inspiring and leading the workforce. There is a world of difference between managing and leading, which needs to be understood and imbibed by the organizations to stay relevant and move ahead in this highly dynamic ecosystem. If inspiring leaders are not created and the managers continue functioning as they do, it will only lead to dissatisfied employees, low productivity and slow death of innovation.

You might also be interested to read: Effective Learning Programs to Build High Performing Teams

Thought leaders over managers

Thought leaders understand that high functioning teams can achieve a lot more than individuals working independently. They are disruptors who know that even if things are fine as they are, there is always a better way of doing them. They question the status quo and bring about changes proactively to stay ahead in the game. They not only demonstrate critical thinking but also encourage others to do the same. On the other hand, managers believe in supervising people, expecting them to adhere to processes and take away the need to think. This is where many Indian organizations are going wrong, and it will only lead to disengaged employees who would not be able to think beyond the standard operating procedures.

For higher employee engagement and to infuse excitement in the work culture of an organization, thought leadership is the need of the hour. It helps employees feel more connected with the vision and the direction of the organization. They can champion ideas, encourage new thinking and are not afraid to be creative disruptors who challenge the status quo and improve on existing business models.

Skills needed for managers to become thought leaders

The seeds of an inspiring leader need to be sown early in life and have to be embedded in our education system, starting from school. Across India, the schooling system still operates like it did decades back. They are stuck in the needs of the industrial era, where knowledge dissemination was the primary aim. While rote learning worked perfectly for the 19th-century workplace, it is far from sufficient for the globalized work environment that we live in now. Our education system needs to encourage more divergent and innovative thinking.

While we can see a surge in education technology companies that are making its way into the field of education, these interventions continue to work in isolation and as knowledge providers only. It is still not focusing on inculcating skills like problem-solving, design thinking, creativity and critical thinking, which are becoming more and more important as artificial intelligence is taking care of mechanical and monotonous jobs. So, it is essential that we go beyond acquiring knowledge and applying it and inspire others to do the same because knowledge sharing is the way ahead.

Most corporations don’t seem to value the power of knowledge sharing. The 21st-century global market has thrown open so many challenges that most of them are dealing with change management in various aspects of their business. This, therefore, is a unique opportunity to share with and gain knowledge from clients and strategic partners to enable growth and innovation. It is a different type of growth strategy, something companies like McKinsey, PwC, Deloitte among many others have been doing for a long time. It’s the best time for corporations to evaluate, package and share their best practices, knowledge pool, case studies and highly skilled and talented leaders to serve as value-added resources to further boost business growth. We are moving towards a smarter economy. More than what we know, it’s remarkable how we can use that knowledge, scale it up and make it more collaborative.

Jobs that require creativity and abstract thinking will grow exponentially in this world, that is getting highly automated, and AI led. Jobs that have the most scope in the future are that of data scientists, robot engineers and operators and of course innovators or solution providers who help in solving the challenges of this interconnected world. However, this future can be created only by investing in inspiring leaders who can develop next-gen jobs and inspire people to do more path-breaking work, and that is something that only humans can do.

From People Manager To Thought Leader- Vineet Nayar, 2nd February 2019, Livemint
9 Differences Between Being A Leader And A Manager- William Arruda, 15th November 2016, Forbes
4 Ways To Go From Manager To Leader- Ashley Shaht, 26th January, 2018, Forbes

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