No more work face?

No more work face?

Image courtesy of green apfel 

I recently wrote a soon-to-be-published article for iCroner that outlined the “Journey of Leadership in the Workplace”, defining the skills a leader would need in 10 years to lead and manage in a more consumer-type workplace, as defined by the AECOM workplace research. I argued that leaders would need to be able to redefine boundaries and rules, and ensure that they are established throughout the social context. They will need to have a high level of emotional intelligence, demonstrate benevolence towards others, have the intellectual capability to get the job done, and the ability to communicate messages consistently and frequently, so that staff are fully aware of what is expected of them, including the requirement to interact with, and be an active member of the organisation in a consumer-like manner.

With these ideas fresh in my head, I then went to the ballet to see “Cubania” with Carlos Acosta. You may think what does this have to do with leadership and the workplace?,  but I saw pushing, challenging and working within boundaries. Metal bars signified a box on stage and, one by one, each dancer would enter the box, dance, then step out of the box and watch the others do the same, until eventually they all danced in the box: sometimes in sync with one another, sometimes complementing one another, and sometimes dancing their own dance whilst still in the box with the others.

Inspiration struck, and I started to think that, just like in this dance, in the workplace leaders and teams watch each other, are sometimes in sync, sometimes complementary and sometimes doing their own task. For the future workplace, I started to think that leaders and managers may not only need to look to define boundaries from a task perspective, but also in a behavioural and personality arena.

Most leaders, managers and staff members have a “work face” that they put on. When they go home, they put on their “home face”. Cynically, this is thought of as people being two-faced; in a business arena, as being professional, or rather showing professionalism at work. In the future, if (as I argue in my article) we will need a more holistic leadership style, then we will need to interact with the whole person – more than just the “work face”.

So what does that mean? Expectations will change and we will need to accept that we are interacting not just with part of a person, but the whole person – and that means that leaders will need to lead and manage the whole person. A person cannot always be professional, so this will mean we need to be able to manage emotion. I don’t mean our own emotion, in the sense that we hide it – exactly the opposite. We will need to learn how to cope when someone is emotional. What will we do when someone cries? Will we pretend it is not happening, which tends to happen now? What happens when someone shouts? Will we run away and hide? Bury our head? Or face it head on?

How we deal with emotion in our personal lives now will transpire into the workplace as both places meld into one. The expectation of “professional” will actually disappear, as no one person will always be professional.

And so back to that dance – sometimes we will be in sync with one another, sometimes we will complement each other and sometimes we will be doing our own dance. Whatever the case may be, we will need to accept, adapt and cope with these new emotional boundaries.

 

Jennifer BryanJennifer Bryan (jennifer.bryan@aecom.com) is head of organisational development within AECOM’s Consultancy practice.

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Comments

  1. Good question to poise around the traits for future leadership. Worth maybe reviewing the work of Warren Bennis ( or be inspired by ‘ A Voyage of Madmen’ – a book which charts the adaption necessary to be pioneers in round the world yacht racing without any technology to help ). Dump Drucker and crowd

  2. Thanks Jennifer – this really resonates with me in my work/home roles, and in thinking about former difficult situations I’ve dealt with when I was a manager dealing with people showing extreme emotion. We do need to get better at support people – not employees.

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