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#WFH: Why is Leadership So Different Now?

For much of the 20th century, business and organizational leadership focused on ROI (return on investment). Business and workplaces used the “Big Three,” time, money and quality, to measure and evaluate everything. Leadership in the 20th century could be broken down into three categories: the laissez-faire (hands off, non-leadership leadership), transactional (give and take) and transformational (good behavior is coaxed or inspired by the leaders from the followers). Leadership approaches that ranged from the transactional to the transformational all relied on being present to evaluate the results. We either ignored what went wrong and were only passively interested in supporting workers after the fact or fixing mistakes after they happened. Leadership sometimes took a more active approach of looking for errors and ignoring what went right. The transactional style had well-defined rules and roles and consequences.

Transactional leadership appeals to many because it is impersonal and nonjudgmental except for the results. It takes a perfectly detached view of the “self” and eliminates and discussion of our internal desires, preferences or paradigms.

The transformational approach focused a little more on the individual and less on conveyor belt mentality but still left a lot to be desired. The leader was the role model who coached, coaxed, inspired and motivated the followers. Transformational leadership appeals to high levels of motivational reasoning.

The 21st century brought a new way to view leadership and interactions called “authentic leadership.” In the virtual workplace, authentic leadership aligns very closely with the “respond-abilities” detailed in The Pajama Effect. This is not a hierarchical view of leadership but one that is inclusive and practical. Authentic leadership says “walk the walk, don’t just talk the talk.” Authentic leaders are hopeful, positive, resilient, confident and collaborative. They build relationships and have the self-discipline to get results. They are open to development and change. They establish and maintain close relationships with people that are supportive and are perceived as contributing to the success of others. With strong relationships at the core, they create communities and positive social exchanges. The virtual workspace has led to a convergence of management and leadership ideologies and out of necessity forced the replacement of theory with practice.

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