What are we talking about when we talk about modern management?
Are we discussing the changing nature of the workplace? Are we talking about the breakdown of traditional roles? Are we remarking upon the very nature of corporate and executive leadership itself?
Modern management was obviously made more efficient as it was shaped in the image of its original masters, Taylorism’s scientific management and Fayolism’s 5 elements of management. But we have moved on from the authoritarian 17th century court rules down through to 19th century bureaucracy and we’ve arrived at a distinctly 21st century open-source network.
In such a context, leadership and management is bound to experience a parallel and dramatic shift in both human behavior and the technology that goads it. The evolving workplace, in fact, calls for a modern management style that is based on five key aspects that help any company grow, flourish and do more than simply float — but thrive and innovate.
Leading On The Frontlines
If you want engaged employees, the idea goes, let them break the rules and be themselves. Modern management is all about getting up close and personal. Managers now have a stake in almost all aspects of a company, from the actual hiring decisions and interview process to actually jumping in with employees. And this is not just a trend in startups, it is prevalent in larger corporations as well.
It’s no longer about a strict hierarchy or division of labor but, rather, getting all hands on deck in the service of shipping the best product or meeting a client’s vision. Sure, everyone stays in their lanes and speaks from their sphere of expertise. But employees don’t work solely to burnish a manager’s reputation anymore. And managers are not afraid to cross lanes and hold everyone — including themselves — accountable.
In case you missed the massive tide of discussion regarding vulnerability for the last three years, here it is, trickled down: empathy and vulnerability go hand-in-hand with a modern management style that is not only efficient, it’s effective and relevant. Says the author of Daring Greatly, Brene Brown about vulnerability: “[it] is the absolute heartbeat of creativity and innovation.”
It is no longer about command, it is about connection. And, in order to connect with employees, their peers and their own senior supervisors, modern managers must frequently demonstrate the courage it takes to be vulnerable and connect with others in a more humanistic way.
Being vulnerable with one’s peers, as a manager is not about being unprofessional, weak or any other sort of value-based judgement. It is all about openness and transparency, an ethic that is fast becoming a requirement of corporate social responsibility, not just an option.
Alongside these shifts, our physical workplaces are undergoing a huge makeover as well. There is a bias towards large office spaces that are open concept with several informal areas meant to facilitate work-based creative collaboration and location-independence — that is to say, independence of a worker from his or her desk, able to be an office nomad of sorts, migrating with laptop in hand.
Rather than cubicles, modern office spaces favor long desks with several desktops placed side by side and facing each other to allow workers to engage in conversation. Even singularly SaaS based companies such as Toronto-based Freshbooks feel more like design studios and ad agencies.
Embracing the Untraditional
Because the best modern managers are secretly futurists at heart, they understand that innovation and growth requires thinking outside the box. This idea of theirs is furthered by the fact that traditional roles and job descriptions are dissolving. In their wake is left project briefs, a focus on job deliverables and non-traditional, hands-on experience and expertise that often secures a candidate the job more than any “traditional” experience and schooling might.
Modern managers, as spoken about above, are far more engaged in the hiring process. And this means they know to keep their eyes out for non-obvious talent that comes in the form of unexpected candidates with a specialized skill set built over a diverse breadth of experiences.
Playing In The Clouds and The Dirt
It’s not necessary for modern managers to understand the very granular aspects of technology in order to be efficient and effective. But they will understand the overall role the various technologies in their specific company plays as well as where the limitations of the tech kick in and where employees, by extension must pick up the slack.
Knowledge of how technology works is key to embracing the right solutions for automation. Modern managers who are more efficient have a keen sense of what is working — and what could be made better (notice how these modern managers also entirely ignore what “isn’t working” as a total waste of time).
But it is not simply about interfacing with software. Modern managers must pull at the ends of two opposite realities: the day-to-day goings on as well as the larger role of tech within their company at large. Decisions involving automation on any level require modern managers to be comfortable playing in the dirt while making decisions in the clouds.
So this, in fact, is what we talk about when we talk about modern management: a call for doing more than simply treading water but enabling meaningful change and innovation in any workplace.
Sarah Merekar is primarily a storyteller who loves to work with and in several different mediums, on various platforms and see how these co-exist and complement each other. She loves hacking product sales and understanding how content creation has an effect on this process. The content she creates for clients is high quality, highly tailored, and on brand, specifically in the form of digital & brand copywriting, design and video.