Until the end of the Third Industrial Revolution, the workplace was characterised by linear change and occasional episodes of disruption. It was the heyday of the professional manager who thrived in an environment of command and control. This manager was the epicentre of knowledge and decision-making. There was no real need for creativity and externally driven focus. 

“Executives and managers were seen to be mutual admiration societies where ‘he who shouts the loudest’ held the floor,” says John Botha: COO of Global Business Solutions. “Listening, empathising and challenging well-established norms were not tolerated and for decades businesses survived – and often thrived – despite themselves.” 

The Disruptive Effect Of The Fourth Industrial Revolution

Enter the disruption of the Fourth Industrial Revolution through digitisation and, of course, biological pandemics. Numerous organisations that had been trading for decades – and even centuries – were now often unsure of how to pivot, re-engineer and (most importantly) unsure of how to transform their businesses. 

“Perhaps this should be re-stated,” continues Botha. “You cannot transform a business. You can only rely on the people in the business to contribute to the transformation of the business. Where there is no trust, there is cost creep, resistance, suspicion, attrition and stress. Where there is trust, there is greater output, morale, innovation, retention and revenue. “

A Blend Of Leadership And Management Is Necessary

Simon Sinek explains this vital blend of leadership and management by saying that “leaders take care of the people in their charge, managers take charge of the people in their care”. In a highly disruptive and uncertain environment, both these ingredients are crucial. 

The challenge is, however, that people who perform well in their jobs are often promoted because they perform well in their jobs. However, now they are no longer responsible for the job but rather for the people in the job. This competency gap is one of the most under-addressed ones and requires significant attention. 

Without the ability to connect with staff, understanding how they are “wired” and focusing just on getting the task done does not build trust. Staff may be reluctant to raise concerns, fears or areas of improvement and over time they become disconnected in the company of “professional managers”.

How Does This Blend Of Leadership And Management Impact Building High-Performance Teams?

Over-empathising and connection (i.e. disproportionate focus on nurturing staff) can result in complacency and low performance. Overbearing management bias can also result in disconnected and disengaged staff as well as an environment of fear and silence. 

Says Botha: “In disruptive times, silence is not a good sign and nor is non-performance. High-performance teams are mostly characterised by a culture of both nurture and strong management, with the ability of those in charge to have courageous conversations when required but also to empathise and nurture when required. This builds trust.”

This person has to aim to achieve two ultimate objectives – sound character and relevant competence. The journey, however, never ends. Franklin Covey’s smart trust philosophy hits the mark here as selecting smart Trust will allow you to operate with high-trust in a low-trust as well as an unpredictable marketplace. The more unpredictable it becomes, the more your sound judgment and ability to trust in this low-trust world will allow you a tremendous competitive advantage — as well as the capacity to navigate the uncertainty that low trust creates.

The starting point is to ask yourself whether your leaders have the desire to want to be human-centric in addition to being operationally exceptional. If the desire is present, then the next step is to take the leaders on a journey of personal awareness, personal leadership, leadership of others as well as leaders of teams and organisations. This should be followed by human-centric strategy design using approaches that harness empathy (such as Design-thinking) and then selecting a few “big-ticket” business challenges to focus on solving.