How often are managers so busy with their emails they find it hard to leave their offices to influence their people face to face? In the 1980s ‘management by walking about’ was popularised by Tom Peter’s in his book ‘In Search of Excellence’. The benefits of which few can achieve in today’s workplace. Why? Simply because the way we communicate has changed.'virtual' has become the new 'walking about'.
In reality we have virtual leadership but people still cling to the power, control, decision making and communication mechanisms of the last century. I would suggest this mindset is also holding organisations back. Go back a hundred years and leaders would lead through their hierarchical leadership team. If top to bottom communication wasn’t working effectively the leader would have to take physicalsteps to do something about it. Nowadays leaders take virtual steps by cutting out their middle managers and speaking directly to the workforce with an email. An issue or a ground breaking idea will often by-pass levels of management. This means line managers can’t take action to either solve the problem or properly support an idea because they don’t know anything about it. The solution is to cc everyone into every e mail which increases the volume of emails and makes it even more unlikely any manager will leave their desk.
Whether we recognise it or not, the rules of leadership have changed. Leadership of organisations requires a new set of skills. Unfortunately before we can benefit from the vast potential technology can bring there has to be a new leadership mindset. The new paradigm is that of the virtual leader.