Nearly 20 years ago, Meghan Messenger joined Next Jump, a company that administers loyalty programs for some of the largest organizations in the world. Over the next two decades, the former sales intern would rise through the ranks and eventually become co-CEO of the company.
By balancing people, purpose and production, leaders like Meghan create collective ownership, promote a culture of innovation, celebrate shared victories and maximize impact. In a networked world, these leadership traits are increasingly replacing the old command-and-control leadership style of the industrial era.
Here are four different leadership styles that today’s leaders should leverage to foster the kind of creative environment that enables and empowers employees to be their best and most productive selves.
Embracing the Teacher leadership style encourages leading and educating by example. Instead of focusing on micromanaging, The Teacher prioritizes transparency and knowledge sharing among team members, and champions continuous learning and constant feedback. As celebrated four-star general Stanley McChrystal describes, it is all about, “eyes on, hands off.”
Next Jump co-CEO Meghan Messenger provides a powerful example of how “Teacher-style” leadership impact both individuals and organizationals. To help set the stage for Next Jump’s evolution, Messenger and her co-CEO dispersed power throughout the organization and essentially gave every employee leadership responsibilities, which meant they were held accountable for both revenue and driving company culture.
Not only has this “everyone culture” fostered trust and creativity, but as Next Jump employees settled into this networked leadership model, company revenues began to increase significantly. The company currently generates more than $2 billion per year with no signs of slowing down.
Continuous learning helps leaders succeed in today’s fast-paced world. As systems grow larger and more complex, leaders must be able to transition from Teachers to Learners, constantly developing new areas of expertise.
Learners don’t silo themselves, they are always synthesizing and applying new information. Tim Cassola, organizational designer at the The Ready, helps Fortune 500 leaders adapt to new ways of working. This requires a mind open to continuous education, not only for employees, but for himself. “It’s easy to fall into an outsider mindset,” says Cassola. “I have to remind myself I am not the person with all the answers. I’m just someone that’s there to help them facilitate a change—one they might know more about than I do.”
With a hunger to explore new opportunities, a cognitive ability to absorb them and a knack for taking decisive action, the Learner applies new knowledge to help organizations prosper in the long-term.
The Mobilizer senses and responds to organizational needs, while also facilitating vital change. As new information emerges from different teams, it is a Mobilizer’s duty to respond with enlightened choices, which has the potential to prompt additional action from other team members.
Paul O’Neill was a fresh-eyed CEO of industrial conglomerate Alcoa when he made a bold decision to focus internal culture on just one thing: safety. O’Neill believed that focusing on this keystone habit would cause a domino effect across the organization.
Employees who regularly shared information about worker safety gradually started sharing all sorts of other information, including ways of boosting efficiency and productivity. As a result of this, Alcoa became one of the first companies to use a company intranet site – years ahead of its competitors.
Because O’Neill mobilized employees around a “safety culture,” it had a profound impact on transforming the business: Alcoa witnessed a 5x increase in net income and $27 billion in market capitalization with O’Neill at the helm.
Soft spoken, selfless, team player, and all-around “nice guy” — these are not the characteristics you’d typically expect of someone leading one of the world’s largest companies. Yet that’s exactly what Sundar Pachai is known for as the CEO of Google. His management style is simple: help others succeed. It’s part of why people flock to work for him. Pachai is a Giver, a leadership trait focused on empathy that is thriving in today’s work environment.
Organizational psychologist Adam Grant explains when Givers succeed, something extraordinary happens: “It spreads and cascades.” It can spread through anything that involves a group of people, from an organization to a country. According to Grant, Abraham Lincoln was also a Giver. He set ego aside and appointed his bitter opponents to the cabinet knowing it would best serve the American people.
When a leader has Giver qualities, like Pachai, it attracts top talent and lowers employee turnover. Moreover, studies show that companies that foster a Giving culture demonstrate higher profitability, productivity, efficiency, and customer satisfaction.
The question every leader should ask today is how they can best support their teams. Creativity and innovation will flourish if leaders can continue focusing on implementing these four leadership modes, moving from one to another as necessary. By doing so, an inspired, empowered and engaged workforce will flourish – because leadership, after all, is also a workplace service!