When does a boss become a leader?

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As a product manager for Hilti Inc., one of the leading global suppliers to the professional construction industry, I have been lucky enough to travel all over the world. Working in locations such as Australia, Canada and the US. I am currently based in Texas, and in two years’ time I will be moving to Europe to take the next step in my career.

It is through this extensive travel and exposure to different working styles and practices that I have noticed an emerging trend: our world is becoming increasingly mobile. People are not only embracing the opportunity to work in different countries across the globe, but they are also beginning to make use of new digital tools that allow them to work remotely – wherever they may be.

The nature of our contemporary workforce is shifting rapidly, and companies must be able to keep pace with change to continue providing the best services to their customers. This shift demands a new style of leadership in order to tackle challenges and capitalise on the opportunities that these changes will naturally bring.

Earlier in my career, I found myself looking for guidance from leaders, but could only find bosses who were stuck in an outdated style of hierarchical command-and-control, responsible for delegating tasks but not much else.

At Hilti, our working culture inherently rejects this approach, and instead aims to develop responsible leaders who are active in helping develop their staff; who motivate, coach and lead by example.

After all, leadership is more than pushing one’s team in order to get the job done; it’s about sharing ideas, taking the initiative and working alongside fellow employees towards a shared vision and goal. When everyone feels like a valued member of the team and empowered in their jobs, the quality of work produced can be amazing.

Bosses will do the job, but today’s competitive global economy requires leaders who are prepared to challenge the status quo.

Understanding these fundamental differences between a traditional ‘boss’ and a modern ‘leader’ is essential to my own working practice. I recently completed an MBA from the University of Roehampton, London Online to help me achieve this goal of becoming an effective leader, regardless of my working environment.

Digital learning

Studying online brings with it a host of benefits, such as being able to study in your own time in the location that suits you best, without having to sacrifice family or work commitments.

One of the greatest advantages the online learning environment brings in developing leadership skills is the opportunity to be a part of a global classroom, benefiting from the influence and insights of your fellow students from all over the world.

Interacting with people of different cultures and backgrounds on a daily basis, you are exposed to best practice from a wide range of industries and workplaces, and come to understand how to respond to and work to solve problems in different settings.

Gaining real-time perspective is a hugely enriching style of learning that helps aspiring leaders understand how contrasting leadership styles and management techniques will be received across the world.

Collaboration is key

Good leaders are great collaborators with their team and others. At Hilti, leaders believe that diversity and inclusion bring together great people who contribute diverse ideas to the workplace, thereby creating a very productive and inclusive atmosphere.

A crucial skill for modern leaders, collaboration helps to create an adaptable and agile workforce with a shared sense of purpose and direction. It enables teams to work together successfully and embrace change as it presents itself.

A common myth about online education is that it can be an isolating endeavour, but in reality it’s quite the opposite. As I earned my MBA online I came to value collaboration with my colleagues who, like me, travel frequently but are still required to meet deadlines. Knowing that we were working together pushed me to succeed even more.

Leaders don’t just promote lifelong learning to their teams; they also live it.

But perhaps what is more important is that collaboration can stem the creation of a culture of lifelong learning. Modern leaders recognise it is no longer enough just to know what is needed to perform or meet goals; there are now much greater expectations on both employees and their managers.

Giving employees more autonomy

As a true departure from outdated leadership approaches, it is important to place adequate levels of trust in your employees, allowing them to use their own initiative in order to produce their best work.

Working together as a network, staff are encouraged to want to learn continually, and are driven to boost their performance and deliver optimal results by throwing away the manual and rolling up their sleeves to come up with better solutions.

As I learned more about my leadership style (as well as how others have approached challenges) during my MBA programme, I was able to immediately apply those skills to my real-life business setting; I saw what worked and where I could improve.

Leaders don’t just promote lifelong learning to their teams; they also live it.

Leaders create the best conditions to thrive

Bosses will do the job well enough if your company is content with maintaining an existing state of affairs, but today’s competitive global economy requires leaders who are prepared to challenge the status quo while upholding high standards of service.

Leaders are needed to create a climate of innovation and independent thinking that will help enable an effective working culture that no longer relies on traditional structures of hierarchy.

Under true leaders, employee engagement and productivity increase, and team members see the inherent value of their work, allowing them to feel valued in turn.

True leaders of the future must understand how to implement and nurture this evolving working environment to create the best conditions to thrive – for employees and businesses alike.

About Wilfred Bayer

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