5 Lessons the Modern CEO Can Teach More Traditional Leaders

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Many traditional CEOs who led companies a generation or more ago followed principles that were largely the same as their predecessors’ methods for leadership. They built top-down cultures that depended on position and title to get things done.

Some are still leading their businesses the same way as those who came before them, despite changes in technology, marketplaces and the workforce that compel fresh approaches.

But a new, modern CEO has emerged, leading a more agile, millennial workforce. This leader constantly questions the status quo and promotes a culture of collaboration.

By looking to this generation of CEOs for inspiration, more experienced leaders can learn new and dynamic ways to improve their operations.

1. Be People-Centric

Today’s executives set goals for their operations, and then empower their teams to determine how to achieve them. These leaders trust their employees to work independently to complete tasks, as they provide the right resources to allow great results.

They also understand millennials’ desire for direction and feedback that is supportive and encouraging, rather than judgmental and critical. These younger workers often want regular confirmation they’re on track and specific direction when they’re off-course.

Steve Jobs, revered head of Apple, understood this when he famously quipped, “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.”

Today’s younger leaders recognize the ongoing learning opportunities that these coaching conversations provide. They’re more likely to encourage a different approach. They recognize that mistakes are often stepping stones to breakthroughs.

“Never waste a good mistake,” say Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey, founders of top-selling Barefoot Wine. They only required that, after an error, a team review what happened and improve documented processes to keep it from happening again.

2. Focus on Work-Life Rhythm

The modern CEO recognizes that millennials appreciate the ability to work how, when and where is best for them and their results. These leaders believe there’s more to life than work.

But it’s not the old work-life balance pendulum; it’s a new focus on work-life rhythm. Who hasn’t responded to email after-hours, or taken a call on vacation? As work has become available to us 24-7, we acknowledge the key is developing timing of the work to create a healthy rhythm.

“For me, each day I leave the office being so fired up about the work that I’m doing, I feel like I’ve earned and deserve the weekend and my free time,” said Grayson Lafrenz, CEO at Power Digital Marketing, to Forbes.

As modern CEOs ask employees to pitch in when there’s a crunch-time, they will often reciprocate with time off or flexibility in schedule. This is all part of creating an employer brand that attracts and retains high performers.

3. Create a Compelling Employer Brand

Take a hard look at your company’s presence. This includes your website, office space and messaging to potential employees. Consider whom it would attract — and not. What does your website say to potential employees? Does it make your business seem like one where high performers would work?

Modern CEOs offer inviting spaces and up-to-date technology. They provide perks like dry cleaning service, lunch delivery or a mobile car wash that comes to the office. These services give back time employees otherwise would have to invest during their off-time.

4. Take Advantage of Technology

Having grown up with technology, contemporary CEOs make use of it in all aspects of their lives. They look for ways it can help teams complete tasks.

Modern CEOs are using project management platforms that keep teams informed on projects using built-in follow-up messages and status reports. They are exploring the features of next-gen productivity tools, online tools to file expense reports, and SAAS HR and payroll platforms

They don’t solely rely on support staff to filter their messages and manage their online calendars.

5. Communicate Frequently, But Efficiently

Millennial leaders use a variety of communication platforms (e.g., text messages, emails and instant messaging) to inform teams effectively and efficiently.

Traditional CEOs might schedule in-person meetings and even delay announcements until everyone is present. Modern CEOs share tidbits regularly to keep everyone up-to-date using email, text and Twitter. Web-based platforms like Zoom and Go-to-Meeting can reduce the need for face-to-face meetings and even reduce travel.

It’s no secret that generational differences show themselves in business. Remain current by embracing technology, creating and maintaining an open and agile workplace, and leading collaboratively. You will attract the best today’s workforce offers.

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