The Future of Work is Here - Now Suck It Up, Leaders, and Let's Do This
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    The Future of Work is Here: 7 Things Leaders Need to Know to Be Prepared

    by Sara J. Baker, Ed.D.

    You may have heard rumors of its arrival. Whispers of impending change linger in the air, causing the old guard to tremble with apprehension.

    Okay, perhaps that’s a tad dramatic, but it’s hard to ignore the seismic shifts that have reshaped the world of work in recent years.

    It’s natural to assume that the future of work would be dominated by tales of automation and robots, but surprisingly, it’s a return to a more human-centric era.

    The leadership landscape is evolving, and it’s not just because of technological advancements.

    Leaders are expected to have a deeper understanding of their employees’ needs and challenges and create an environment that fosters growth and collaboration.

    This has led to a reformation of traditional leadership styles, with a shift towards more empathetic and inclusive leadership. Gone are the days of authoritarian leaders barking orders from their ivory towers, now it’s all about servant leadership and leading by example.

    But what exactly does this mean for the future of leadership? And how can we ensure that our own leadership style aligns with these changing expectations? Let’s explore this shift and see what we need to do to stay ahead of the curve.

    In the Future: Adults Are Treated Like Adults

    As mature individuals, let’s move away from imposing rules, nonsensical operating procedures, and organizing play dates during our non-work hours. Treat me as an adult. Unclear about what that entails? Well, adults possess autonomy. We have the capacity to think for ourselves and don’t require constant hand-holding.

    The Future of Work is Here - Now Suck It Up, Leaders, and Let's Do This

    We don’t tolerate individuals who yell or behave poorly towards us. We expect to have a voice in our work and to be respected as human beings. Furthermore, as adults, we understand the value of interdependence. We acknowledge that we can’t do everything alone and are more than willing to seek assistance when needed.

    What this means for you:

    According to Daniel Pink, people are motivated by three things: autonomy, mastery, and purpose.

    In a traditional workplace hierarchy, employees may have little say in how they work or what they work on, leading to a lack of autonomy.

    But in the modern workplace, leaders are shifting towards a more hands-off approach, giving employees the freedom to choose how and when they complete their tasks. Leaders are abandoning the old ways of micromanagement and letting people actually get their work done without constantly looking over their shoulders.

    In the Future: Personal Lives are Valued

    For years, we’ve been fed the falsehood that we must give up our personal lives in exchange for our careers. We’ve been led to believe that working endless hours is the sole path to success. We’ve been conditioned to think that to thrive professionally, we must be accessible 24/7.

    But guess what? It’s all a bunch of nonsense.

    The future of work revolves around striking a harmonious balance between our personal and professional lives. It entails acknowledging our humanity and recognizing that we have needs beyond work. When we find happiness and fulfillment in our personal lives, we become happier and more productive in our professional endeavors.

    We don’t want to sacrifice our personal lives for the sake of our careers. We yearn to have families, pursue hobbies, cultivate friendships, and still make progress in our professional journeys. We desire reasonable work hours that allow us to cherish our lives beyond the confines of work.

    What this means for you:

    The future of work centers around cultivating a culture that values and honors employees’ time and energy. It involves recognizing that individuals have lives outside of work and need moments to recharge. Embracing flexible work arrangements and displaying empathy in the face of life’s circumstances are crucial. The conventional 9-5 workday is gradually giving way to more adaptable schedules and remote work options.

    In the future of work, it is crucial to ensure that employees have the freedom to manage their own time and work from home when necessary. It is about providing paid time off for individuals to attend to their families or personal needs. It is about showing understanding when someone needs to leave early for a medical appointment or stay home to care for a sick child.

    As a leader, you have the power to drive this change. You can lead by example, setting boundaries for yourself and showing your team that it’s okay to prioritize personal lives. You can also advocate for policies that promote work-life balance and support employee well-being.

    In the Future: People Crave Purpose

    We don’t just want to show up to a job to collect a paycheck. We want to know that our work is purposeful and that our time spent helps to make someone’s life better, somehow. We want to feel like our contributions matter and that we are making a positive impact in the world.

    As leaders, it is our responsibility to provide this purpose. It’s not enough to simply assign tasks and expect them to be done. We must ensure that our team understands the bigger picture and how their work fits into the company’s overall goals. We should also encourage them to bring their own ideas and perspectives to the table, fostering a sense of ownership and purpose in their work.

    What this means for you:

    In the future, leaders must take on the role of not just a manager but also a mentor. We must guide our team members towards finding their own purpose and helping them align it with the company’s mission. This may involve providing opportunities for personal development, setting clear goals and expectations, and providing feedback and recognition.

    It is also important to create a company culture that promotes purpose-driven work. This can be achieved by having a shared mission and values, encouraging collaboration and innovation, and promoting diversity and inclusivity within the workplace.

    In the Future: People Demand Authentic Leaders

    The Future of Work is Here - Now Suck It Up, Leaders, and Let's Do This

    We’re done with the days of cold, detached leaders who don’t care about their employees. We want leaders who are human beings, who care about us as people, and who are interested in our development and growth. If you aren’t comfortable with authentic leadership, now is the time to get comfortable.

    Gone are the days of leaders being seen as untouchable figures on a pedestal. In the future, leaders will be expected to be vulnerable, transparent, and approachable. Authenticity builds trust within teams and allows for open communication and collaboration.

    What this means for you:

    Authentic leadership involves being genuine, transparent, and vulnerable with your team. It means being open to feedback and admitting when you don’t have all the answers. Authentic leaders build trust and foster a sense of psychological safety within their teams, where people feel comfortable speaking up and taking risks.

    As a leader, it’s important to lead with empathy and understanding. Take the time to get to know your team members on a personal level, show genuine interest in their well-being, and create a safe space for open communication.

    In the Future: The Workforce Focuses on Growth

    The Future of Work is Here - Now Suck It Up, Leaders, and Let's Do This

    We, as employees, don’t desire sugar-coated feedback or false criticism. Such practices may momentarily placate us, but they do more harm than good in the long run. They create an illusion of success, preventing us from recognizing and addressing our weaknesses and stifling our personal and professional growth.

    What we truly yearn for, instead, are opportunities for growth and coaching. We value genuine, constructive feedback that highlights our strengths and identifies areas for improvement. We appreciate leaders who invest in our development and guide us through our journey of growth.

    We seek a nurturing work environment that offers learning opportunities, encourages skills development, and fosters a culture of continuous improvement.

    What this means for you:

    As a leader in the future workforce, your role extends beyond management to becoming a coach who fosters growth and provides honest feedback. This involves cultivating an environment that encourages employees to learn, grow, and strive to reach their full potential. It means providing opportunities for skill enhancement, continuous learning, and career progression.

    It includes fostering an open, transparent culture where feedback is viewed as a tool for growth and improvement rather than a form of criticism. In essence, the future workforce craves a growth-oriented environment where feedback is transparent and purposeful, serving as a stepping stone for continual learning and development. By embracing this, leaders can cultivate teams that are not only highly skilled and productive, but also engaged, motivated, and committed to their roles.

    In the Future: People Strive to be Partners, Not Pawns

    The modern workforce is moving away from the traditional hierarchical structure, where decision-making power resides solely at the top. Today’s employees want a seat at the table and to be viewed as partners in achieving the company’s objectives rather than pawns in the game.

    Employees who are treated as partners tend to exhibit a higher level of commitment, engagement, and satisfaction. This sense of partnership fosters a feeling of ownership and responsibility, driving individuals to take initiative, think innovatively, and work towards the collective success of the organization.

    What this means for you:

    As a leader, it’s crucial to foster a culture of partnership within your team. This involves promoting open communication, inviting input and feedback, and ensuring everyone feels valued and heard. Encourage your team members to actively participate in decision-making processes, acknowledging their expertise and the unique perspectives they bring. By making collaborative decisions and collectively working towards common goals, you reinforce their importance as partners in the organization’s success.

    Remember, a partnership-centered culture doesn’t just benefit employees but also the organization as a whole. It promotes shared responsibility, unity, and a stronger commitment to the company’s mission and values. So, if you want a workforce that is truly invested in your company’s success, treat them as partners, not just cogs in the machine.

    In the Future: Zero Tolerance for -isms

    In the modern workplace, there is an increasing intolerance for any form of “-ism” – be it sexism, racism, ableism, ageism, or any other form of discrimination. Employees are seeking workplaces that are diverse, inclusive, and equitable. Workplaces that value and respect the unique identities and experiences of all individuals, and where everyone is treated with dignity and fairness.

    What this means for you:

    As a leader, it is your responsibility to create and maintain an environment that is free from discrimination and prejudice. It’s crucial to ensure that your workplace policies and practices promote diversity and inclusivity at every level, and that any instances of discrimination are addressed promptly and effectively.

    Creating a culture of inclusivity doesn’t stop at having a diverse team. It means valuing and leveraging the diverse backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives of your team members to foster creativity, innovation, and resilience. It requires acknowledging and addressing any unconscious bias, and ensuring that all decisions, from hiring to promotions, are based on merit and competence, not on irrelevant factors such as race, gender, age, or disability.

    In conclusion, the modern workforce is not just “over” the -isms, they won’t tolerate them. They expect and deserve a workplace that is diverse, inclusive, and equitable. As leaders, it is incumbent upon us to rise to this challenge, for it is not only the right thing to do, but it is also key to unlocking the full potential of our teams and driving our organizations forward.

    Are You Ready For It?

    The future of work is here, and it’s time for us to adapt. Let’s create a culture that values people, that respects their time and their need for balance. Let’s create purposeful work with real leaders who care about our development. Let’s be honest with each other and give people the feedback and opportunities they need to grow. Are you ready for it?

    The world is changing, and the way we work needs to change with it. We can’t keep doing things the way we’ve always done them and expect different results. It’s time for a change.

    Are you ready to embrace this change and lead your team into the future? The choice is yours.

    Dr. Sara Baker, Founder of the Leadership Reformation

    About the Author

    Dr. Sara Baker is an advocate for positive leadership and healthy workplaces. With over 20 years of experience leading private and public organizations, she understands the challenges that employees and leaders face every day.

    Sara is the author of Toxic Workplace Survival Guide, an essential resource for anyone who wants to thrive in spite of a toxic work environment. In addition to her writing, Sara provides online courses for leadership development and coping with a toxic workplace.

    Dr. Sara Baker, Founder of the Leadership Reformation

    About the Author

    Dr. Sara Baker is an advocate for positive leadership and healthy workplaces. With over 20 years of experience leading private and public organizations, she understands the challenges that employees and leaders face every day.

    Sara is the author of Toxic Workplace Survival Guide, an essential resource for anyone who wants to thrive in spite of a toxic work environment. In addition to her writing, Sara provides online courses for leadership development and coping with a toxic workplace.

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