Workplaces need to change to continue functioning in an ever-changing world. But change is not always easy, with many businesses happy to stick with tried and tested approaches. Change can often be viewed with suspicion. The responsibility for deciding on change, implementing change, and ultimately guiding employees through it, lies with the leadership of the organization.
This means that workplaces need a leader whose mind is open to change and keeps themselves up to date on the changes happening in their industry. They also need to know how to respond to change, whether that change is a result of a decision they have made or events that are out of their control. A good leader will be skilled at supporting employees in making the necessary adjustments to change too.
This article explores how the decisions leaders make will determine how and when a workplace changes, as well as how positive those changes are.
Any business or organization needs effective people in leadership positions to boost success and profitability. For current leaders or aspiring ones, it is worth looking for ways to improve their leadership skills as it will make promotion easier to achieve. They can request feedback from those higher up in the organization or those they are leading, perhaps anonymously to ensure they are honest. This will highlight areas of strength as well as areas for improvement.
Listening is a key leadership skill. If leaders do not listen, it is easy for them to miss important details that team members are trying to communicate. Being a leader does not mean simply flinging orders around and expecting them to be followed. Good leadership will encourage collaboration, drawing on the strengths of all in the team to get the best possible results.
A leader will need an array of soft skills too, such as good communication, organization, and problem solving with the ability to work well under pressure. Taking opportunities to practice these skills will allow leaders to hone them to a leadership standard.
As well as honing skills as an ongoing task in everyday work, leaders can also look for formal ways to boost their skills such as through courses and gaining additional qualifications. If any training opportunities come up at the workplace, leaders should take them. Recognized and accredited qualifications can help individuals stand out to employers when leaders need to be selected or hired. The best courses to boost leadership skills will depend very much on the current level of education and industry of the individual, but there are many options available. These might be at a local university or individuals can enjoy the more flexible study of online courses which today are just as rigorous as their in-person counterparts.
For those who work in education or a similar setting and are looking to improve leadership skills in the workplace, a good course to consider is the online Ed.D. in Educational Leadership and Organizational Innovation at Marymount University. Packed with insights from thought leaders in the field, it prepares students to become the sort of leaders who can drive positive change in schools, colleges, healthcare institutions, government departments, and other organizations.
With skilled leadership, change can bring a wide range of benefits that will enhance the profitability, efficiency and quality of any business or organization.
Businesses and other organizations should always strive to be more productive. As well as increasing profits, this will also deliver a better experience for customers and clients. There are a variety of changes that leaders can implement to achieve this.
They can look at activities that waste time for little result. If, for example, management is expecting all employees to gather for regular meetings, leaders should examine and decide if they are really necessary. They should decide which meetings employees truly need to be present at. This frees up more time for productivity.
They can also look at the structure of the working day. It may seem counterproductive to increase breaks or encourage employees to get out of the workplace for a bit, but in reality, the opposite is true. Long hours without breaks decrease productivity. Breaks, particularly if employees have time for a drink and a snack or meal, and if they can enjoy fresh air, will refresh employees. This can increase their productivity and enhance the standards of their work.
Additionally, leaders should keep an eye on the latest technological developments and to see how they can help enhance productivity. Time tracking software can be used to identify where time is wasted if the problem isn’t immediately apparent. Leaders can also look to see where technology can be used to speed up tasks. Today, automating some mundane tasks can be effective as it frees up employees to undertake more creative tasks.
Demanding change and expecting employees to get on with it is a recipe for disaster. Change is not always easy and initially, change can slow down production while employees get to grips with it. Changes in production methods or new technology can be implemented far quicker if employees are given the appropriate training.
This will also allow them to witness the benefits of the changes without feeling like it is simply a change imposed on them from above. By involving them in the change and seeking feedback, leaders will help employees take ownership of the change.
Change is often considered in terms of increasing profitability or creating a better customer experience. But leaders should also consider changes that will create a more positive working environment, such as increasing employee autonomy, creating a more comfortable working space, and ensuring a manageable workload. Employees do not want to be treated as numbers on a payroll but as individuals who have their own strengths, weaknesses, and challenges.
Boosting employee morale is not only good for employees. It is also good for business. Happy employees with a manageable workload are more effective at their jobs, helping to increase productivity. They will also be more willing to go the extra mile on occasion to aid the success of a project. An employee is an investment, often with time and money spent training them in their work.
Therefore, creating a positive working environment will improve retention rates, keeping skilled employees working for the business or organization. When new employees are required, the reputation for looking after employees will proceed the business or organization, increasing the number of high caliber candidates who apply.
Ideas and enterprise
A leader who is open to change and skilled at implementing it to maximum effectiveness will create an atmosphere in the workplace that is conducive to new ideas. Leaders can further enhance this by listening to the ideas and suggestions of employees. Staff who have recently undertaken training or who have attended a conference or industry event are likely to have come across new methods and technologies that could enhance the business. Leaders can encourage them to spread these ideas through in-house workshops and training events.
A leader should always be willing to listen to suggestions. Not all ideas will be good, but it is always good to motivate staff who are keen to see the business develop and grow. By encouraging these ideas, implementing some and developing others, leaders can create a business that becomes known in the industry for being innovative and enterprising.
No matter how well a business or organization is doing, there is always room for growth. Businesses that do not grow can become stagnant and will soon be overtaken by those that are more dynamic. However, a leader who is open to the possibilities of change and knows the most effective ways to implement change can see their business or organization grow. And with the growth of the business or organization comes greater profits.
These will have numerous benefits. There will be greater profits for owners or shareholders, the opportunity to improve the pay and conditions of the employees, and more money to invest in the company, helping to make further opportunities for positive change.
Leadership styles for positive change
Not all leadership styles will bring about positive change. A highly autocratic leader, for example, may be able to drive through change without opposition but there will likely be significant hindrances to making it positive. Employees who are not involved or consulted in the change may become resentful and stressed, reducing the rate of employee retention and productivity.
Additionally, it is good for employees to be able to freely make their own contributions. Leaders are not infallible, and they need employees at all levels of the organization to point out the strengths and weaknesses of ideas and develop them further. Particularly in large organizations, leaders cannot be experts across every single department. So, the input of those who work in different departments are vital to help the changes run smoothly and to the maximum possible benefits.
Every leader has their own unique style they can use to bring about positive change.
As the name implies, transformative leaders actively embrace change and will always be looking to the future to see where they can take their organization next. This leadership style can be highly beneficial for those organizations and businesses looking to make change.
As well as being keen to change themselves, they can also inspire other employees to feel the same. This is particularly useful if the change has been a long time coming and most employees are accustomed to working in a particular way. However, transformative leaders are not idle dreamers. They also understand what needs to be done to make the change work and will be looking to boost the skills and abilities of employees so they can reach their full potential.
This is not the same as authoritarian leaders who are likely to adopt a more autocratic style. Instead, authoritative leaders are likely to act as mentors to their employees. They achieve change through inspiring and guiding those around them. They are continuously providing feedback and motivation that adds to a general sense of accomplishment.
The main drawback of authoritative leaders is that they tend to micromanage employees, which can become overbearing. But if they can curb this, the hands-on approach of the authoritative leader allows them to truly get to know team members. This means they can tailor their guidance and feedback towards individual success as well as success for the team, organization, and change as a whole.
Delegative leaders have, by contrast, a more hands-off style of leadership and are very unobtrusive in the workplace. This is a challenging leadership style to get right. It leaves scope for team members to assume dominance, perhaps creating a negative working atmosphere. In a negative atmosphere, disagreements between employees can be harder to resolve.
Without guidance, some employees may lose focus, creating an unfair burden on others too. It can also be challenging for new employees to enter this working environment as they try to adjust to their new role.
However, this style of leadership can be very effective if a leader has a competent team who work well together and have mutual trust. Delegative leaders create an environment where an individual’s ideas and suggestions can flourish, enhancing their creativity and sense of accomplishment. When hiring new employees, this type of leadership style can attract innovative, enterprising individuals full of their own ideas for positive change.
Often called managerial leadership, transactional leadership works on a system of rewards and punishments. This type of leadership sets a clear structure, with employees understanding their tasks and goals. They can recognize the consequences of falling short and the rewards, usually financial, for succeeding.
The risks of this style of leadership may include a negative atmosphere, as some team members receive bonuses and others do not. It may also result in employees doing just enough to get their reward and no more, even if they are capable of it, rather than going the extra mile to get even better results. However, it does make very clear what the responsibilities are of each employee, helping create a defined structure as leaders work towards a positive change. If the rewards are consistent with the company’s goals, it may well deliver good results.
Participative leadership appeals to leaders who are skilled communicators and happy to share power and responsibility with their team. Change thus depends on the collective responsibility of the team, rather than resting on the leader alone and avoids apportioning individual blame for any problems. This can encourage a more positive working atmosphere and can give employees greater confidence in sharing their ideas.
For teams that work together in person, this type of leadership can be highly effective as it builds trust throughout the team and allows all to feel valued. However, since the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a trend towards remote working with teams mostly or even entirely meeting virtually. In this case, participative leadership is less effective.
Servant leaders put others first and focus on ethical decision making. Through understanding the people that work around and with them, servant leaders aim to set a good example, while also encouraging others to work towards their goals and develop their abilities. This approach to decision making empowers and encourages employees to come up with their own solutions. It helps individuals develop their problem-solving skills and together the team can build upon each other’s ideas to create the best solutions.
This type of leadership creates a positive and peaceful environment built upon trust and avoids conflict. The improved communication between people at all levels of the organization can result in stronger loyalty and increased productivity.
Be a leader for positive change
Not everyone fits neatly into one category of leader. Some may find that they can adapt between different leadership styles as necessary, tailoring their style depending on the circumstances and team.
For those who are not yet in a leadership position but are keen to advance their career into one, then a good start is to consider training opportunities. Thanks to online courses, these have never been so accessible and flexible. On a course, aspiring leaders will learn further about the different leadership styles and can hone their skills to use their chosen style to maximize results. Through education, an individual can soon become one of the leaders that will make positive changes to lead the businesses of today into the future.