Article

NextGen Know-How: Are You a Modern Leader?

engaging manager leading a team meeting
Laurie Maddalena, MBA, CPCC, PHR Photo
Executive Coach/Consultant
Envision Excellence

3 minutes

Transforming from a command-and-control-style manager to an engaging coach and mentor is key to your employees’—and your own—success.

Forty years ago, there was little talk in business about engaging employees, coaching and developing direct reports or cultivating the company culture. People stayed at the same organization for most or all of their careers. Traditional managers, who were task-oriented and provided a lot of direction but very little inspiration, were tolerated dutifully. The command and control style of leadership prevailed.

The landscape of the work environment has since changed. Employees have more choices and will leave an organization where they don't feel valued or appreciated. Traditional leaders won't survive in the best organizations; there is only room for modern leaders.

We all have heard horror stories of ineffective, bad bosses. But in my experience, most  traditional leaders are not narcissistic and power-hungry. They are mediocre managers (and executives) who lack the necessary leadership skills to be successful. They aren't naturally inclusive, approachable and engaging, and their leadership style reflects that. 

To succeed in leadership today, managers need to be modern leaders. A modern leader is approachable, engaging and focused. A modern leader promotes an environment of productivity and positivity. A modern leader has emotional intelligence and understands the importance of cultivating relationships in the workplace. Culture is created by the people in the organization—if you want to elevate your culture, you need to elevate your leadership. 

You may be a traditional leader and not know it. But trust me, your employees do. They are talking about it behind your back, and your high-performing employees are probably looking for a quick exit (if they are still there). Read on for the traits that distinguish a traditional leader from a modern leader.

Traditional leader:

  • command and control management style
  • doesn't provide feedback
  • focuses on finding mistakes and reprimanding; holds people accountable through fear
  • very little engagement with employees
  • no coaching or development
  • believes the paycheck is the reward for work
  • thinks he/she knows all the answers
  • more task-oriented and in the weeds
  • thinks he/she worked hard to advance and deserves leadership


Modern leader:

  • encouraging and inviting
  • provides timely, constructive, consistent feedback
  • focuses on learning from mistakes; holds people accountable in a positive, principled way
  • finds ways to consistently engage with employees
  • sees coaching and development as a top priority 
  • actively thanks employees and shows appreciation
  • solicits ideas and suggestions from employees; encourages employee involvement
  • more proactive, strategic and visionary
  • sees leadership as a privilege and enjoys serving his/her employees

The first step to transitioning from a traditional leader to a modern leader is awareness. Take time to reflect on your leadership and determine which areas you need to develop. 

It’s never been more challenging to be a leader than it is today. The best organizations only hire and keep modern leaders. If you want to improve your leadership, start by asking for feedback from those around you. The following questions can help to open the dialogue with employees so that you can gain relevant feedback to improve as a leader:

  • What is one thing you would like for me to continue doing?
  • What’s one thing you would like to see me do more of? 
  • What is one thing that I should stop doing?
  • What are the qualities you appreciated most from the best leader you ever worked for?
  • How can I support you better?

If you suspect your employees won’t be honest with you, then perhaps a formal or informal 360-degree assessment can give you the anonymous feedback you need to continue to grow and develop as a leader.

Laurie Maddalena, MBA, CPCC, PHR, is a certified executive coach, leadership consultant and founder of Envision Excellence, LLC in the Washington, D.C., area. Her mission is to create exceptional cultures by teaching leaders how to be exceptional. Maddalena facilitates management and executive training programs and team-building sessions and speaks at leadership events. Prior to starting her business, she was an HR executive at a $450 million credit union. Contact her at 240.605.7940 or lmaddalena@envisionexcellence.net.

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Keywords

Leadership