In order to attract and retain great talent and spot trends that give them a competitive advantage, leaders need to stop talking and start listening, argues Mel Wombwell

There is no doubt that we are at an interesting tipping point in both how we do business today and operate as leaders. But this presents a challenge because business has been around a long time, has a rich history and many ingrained ways of working, beliefs, rituals and routines.

Leadership traits: the end of ‘command and control’

One of the ingrained ‘ways of doing things’ has been the way we ‘lead’ as leaders. Historically this has involved a ‘command and control’ style – a low feedback culture where people have done as they are told in exchange for job security and a fairly steady state.

This presents issues in today’s business world where the following challenges are faced:

  • Lowest levels of trust between society and business
  • Millennial and digital natives who are expecting to have multiple careers and do meaningful work
  • Realisation that we have finite resources and we are consuming 1.6 years’ worth of these every year and is only going to increase as our global population rises

These shifts present us with a number of challenges as leaders:

  • How do we attract and retain the best talent?
  • How do we inspire our people to engage with the organisation and innovate and
  • How do we make sure we and our people are listening to the weak signals that warn us of up and coming changes so we can stay ahead of the competition

A new style of leadership

At Grant Thornton we are working with leaders both within the UK and across the globe to help them transition from the ‘traditional’ leadership style – which typically includes having all the answers, telling people what to do rather than listening and asking questions, and little or no giving or receiving feedback – to a more modern pioneering style.

It’s a style which increases engagement, facilitates innovation and liberates people to bring their ‘whole selves’ to work. It requires leaders to stop doing all or most of the talking and start doing a lot more listening and asking insightful questions. It involves leaders developing their emotional intelligence and connecting more deeply and better with their customers, people and broader stakeholders.

A shift in leadership styles

This sounds easy on paper, but in reality involves a big shift in mind-set and beliefs for leaders. But if leaders are going to attract and retain great talent, listen out for trends and changes that give them competitive advantage and create an innovation culture which means they can outperform their competitors, then leadership in these times of change needs to be top of their agenda.

Mel Wombwell leads Grant Thornton UK’s Leadership, People and Culture practice. She has an MSc in executive coaching from Ashridge and is an NLP master practitioner and trainer


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Feature | Leadership | Talent