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Old School vs. New School Leadership: A Comparison

The world is changing. The workplace around the world is no longer mostly populated by Boomers (born from 1946 to 1964) and Generation X (born from 1977 to 1985). Millennials (born from 1981 to 1996) have entered the workforce and are rapidly taking over.

With this shift comes new management styles that appeal more to younger professionals than the older folks who have been working for a while. However, what makes them different, and how do these differences affect company culture? Find out here.

The Corporate Ladder

In the workplace, there exists a hierarchy.

The bosses in executive roles are at the very top and new hires at the very bottom. Those who have higher positions receive their own offices, separated from the rest of the staff, and sit at the head of the conference table during meetings because they are in charge.

This sort of structure is prone to abuse. There are bosses who wield their positional power in order to take advantage of those who they think are beneath them.

It creates a toxic workplace environment for everyone and does not contribute to productivity. Instead, it creates stress that leads to burnout, absenteeism, and resignations.

In the modern age, there is a less rigid corporate structure.

Leadership Means Humility

When Seah Moon Ming, the current SMRT Chairman, joined the multi-modal transport operator in Singapore in 2017, he wanted to change the company culture. He is not the kind of leader who passes the blame to his subordinates for mistakes. He has the humility to apologize and admit to mistakes.

It is a very different approach to the olden days when the employees in the lower ranks are thrown under the bus to save management. Every member of the team is respected by their colleagues and their bosses.

Democratic Rather Than Autocratic

The decisions have always been made by managers. The staff had no choice but to follow orders and no one is allowed to ask questions or voice their concerns. Those who do not accept the task handed to them are punished for it.

However, many companies are now encouraging everyone to speak out. Decisions are no longer made solely by the people at the top of the pack. Teams have a lot of influence when there are important issues that are needed to be addressed.

Brainstorming, or sharing of ideas between groups of people, is a valued characteristic of an office. It encourages out-of-the-box thinking that creates innovative solutions.

When only one person has the final say, the options are limited. There is only one view-point that is subject to personal biases. With more people, who have their own opinions, at the table, it is easier to create a more effective strategy in marketing or development of products. Not all suggestions will be great, but when people work together, they might be able to create a winning approach to every challenge.

The importance of and the desire for having a democratic workplace is backed by the popularity of open office layouts. Companies around the world are ditching cubicles and doors; they have massive tables that encourage collaboration between departments.

Careful but Trusting

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A modern boss trusts their employees. They do not manage by walking around the office, peeking at every computer monitor to check progress. This behavior, many leaders have realized, is not productive for themselves nor for the staff.

New-school leadership does not attempt to control the movement of everyone in the office. Employees are welcome to do what they need to do in order to finish the task assigned to them. If they enjoy listening to music, for example, they can do so. Some companies are even allowing their employees to work remotely a few times a week if they feel more productive at home or in a coffee shop rather than in the office.

This why massive corporations like Google have different spaces within their campuses where employees can bring their work computers and perform their tasks. There is no manager hovering over them, waiting for them to finish their work. The bosses only need output. The employee can do what they need to do to complete it.

However, it is also important to verify. Being too lenient would not be productive for everyone. Giving deadlines and occasionally asking for updates will keep everyone focused.

Company cultures changing around the world as new generations of workers enter the workforce is not a bad thing. The old style of management was not perfect. It also is not suited for young professionals who have developed their own ways of working. However, the new style of management is not flawless, either. Both can learn from each other to create a better workplace environment.

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