For some execs, “work is war,” but battle worn employees look for a new kind of leader

Happy August! Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to offer my perspective in Emma Goldberg‘s latest for The New York Times, “We’re in the Era of the ‘Top Gun’ CEO.”

The article explored how a growing number of leaders are “embracing a new style of corporate machismo” in which “work is war” and they’re responding with a “Top Gun-style leadership training” including military and car racing types of simulations.

My view is that as we emerge from the pandemic mindset, leaders are seeking ways to engage and motivate their teams. They’re “trying to regain a sense of control they feel they’ve lost over the last few years. They’re searching to reassert control and power in a way that feels familiar.”

These leaders believe this type of training and management style better prepares them and their employees for high-risk, high-pressured environments. But, I can’t think of anything more demanding than worrying about your family’s health and your kids’ education while doing your job and keeping your business running during a deadly global pandemic.

Which is why “I don’t think it aligns with what most people say they’re looking for in a leader.”  Employees feel they’ve been in battle for the past three years and moving forward they want a different kind of leader. One who is less command and control and more “human-centric, empathetic, collaborative.”

That being said, the outcomes leaders in the article wanted to achieve are important:
—Not losing sight of business objectives
—Better pre-planning
—Debriefing and learning
—Trust-based decentralized leadership

But what approach builds trust across decentralized flexible work teams? What will get employers and employees on the same page about how, when and where business objectives are executed most effectively? What ensures the psychological safety to plan, debrief and learn?

It’s not about command and control, it’s about connect and collaborate. That’s the real mission.

(For more on a new style of leadership, check out “The Empathy Advantage: Leading the Empowered Workforce” by Heather E. McGowan 🏳️‍🌈🏳️‍⚧️, Chris Shipley and Denise Williams.)

What do you think?  Are you seeing leaders grapple with how to better engage, motivate and prepare their teams as we emerge from the pandemic?  Are they defaulting to the more traditional command-and-control style or are they experimenting with new ways of connecting and collaborating with their employees?

Also on my radar this week, Mike Bloomberg’s OpEd in The Washington Post, “Like all employees, federal workers need to get back to the office.” My response on LinkedIn. Let me know what you think.