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3 Essential Laws of 21st Century Management

by Sarah Wilkinson, Class of ’17

In a world that is changing daily, what it means to be the boss has changed quite a bit. Lindsey Pollak in her book, Becoming the Boss, writes that there are three essential laws to 21st century management. They include being adaptable to rapid change, being culturally aware, and being transparent.

Adaptability to Rapid Change

Never before has there been a time when things change so quickly – sometimes overnight. Whole economies can collapse in the blink of an eye, and in such turbulent times you have be capable of living with the uncertainty of what might happen next to be effective in management. Specifically, you need to be open to rapid changes in three areas: technology, employee tenure, and time lines.

Technology

It may be hard to imagine a time when you aren’t aware of the newest technologies, but you will soon enter the workforce with training in certain technologies that may change in a matter of years (or months). Generations will continue after you, each with training in the newest technologies, and eventually that means you may be left out of the loop unless you remain diligent and keep yourself trained (even if it means going out of your way to do so). As a leader in your organization, you should have an understanding of all the technology your organization uses.

Employee Tenure

In times past, employees signed on with a company for life. Now, the average millennial will have 15 to 20 jobs in their lifetime. This means that, as a leader, you’ll be dealing with many changes in staff. Pretty much the only constant will be change. The good news is that you have some control over this. Studies show that the majority of people quit jobs because they don’t like working with their direct supervisor. If you are approachable, fair, and supportive, you may be able to reduce your employee turnover.

Time Lines

Businesses used to be able to make long-term strategic plans for eight to 10 years out. Now, businesses can hardly make a five year strategic plan since things change so quickly. In a management role, you’ll need to be capable of addressing these rapid changes and adjusting your company’s strategy to adapt to changes in the market – and do so fast.

Cultural Awareness

For much of American history, businesses and governments alike have been predominantly run by white men. Times are changing, and with each year more and more diverse people gain access to these positions. Millennials represent the most diverse generation ever, and also the most culturally aware. To be a strong leader in such a diverse landscape, you have to be inclusive and aware of different ways of thinking. You must appreciate people’s different approaches to their work, and always keep an open mind.

Not sure if you’re inclusive? Here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  1. In class when you have a group project and can pick partners, do you seek out the same people every time (exclusive), or do you seek out different perspectives (inclusive)?
  2. Do you actively seek out people who have different opinions than you do?
  3. Have you studied abroad?
  4. Do you like to try new things?
  5. Are you aware of what’s going on in the world?

If in answering these questions, you’re realizing that you haven’t exactly pushed yourself outside your comfort zone, now is the time to try being more inclusive.

Transparency

“Across all geographies, millennials expect twenty-first-century leaders to be more open, transparent, and collaborative – departing from the baby boomer model of leader as distant and autocratic.” ~ 2014 Deloitte Millennial Survey

One reason millennials expect more transparency is because we’ve been exposed to the internet, where so much information is at our fingertips. We’ve become hungry for knowledge, and to trust someone we expect them to be open with us, to really earn that trust. More and more, companies are opening up about how much their top execs make and what their process is. Politicians are participating in “Ask Me Anything” sessions online, all in an effort to make connections and build trust with people.

This means that in order to be a good leader, you also have to be transparent. More people than ever have their eyes on you thanks to the internet, and judging people has become incredibly simple, if not always accurate. As long as you’re honest about your motives and who you are, you’ll likely be able to build positive relationships with your employees, stock holders, clients, and others outside your direct organization.

Look out for part ten of this blog series, which will talk about how to work in management when you have no experience managing people. The previous post in blog series talked about the 14 things that all effective communicators do. Find that post here.

Sources: Becoming the Boss by Lindsey Pollak; find more information about Pollak here.