How To Adapt Your Leadership Style For The Challenges Of The Modern Business World

Leadership is not a one-size-fits-all type of role. Effective leaders can come in all forms. Charismatic legends like Steve Jobs, Jack Welch or Oprah Winfrey may spring to mind, but their style is only one type of leadership technique available to you.

In today’s business world, leaders are running into challenges due to the changing landscape of the workforce and the varying expectations that teams hold for their managers. Navigating those tensions can be difficult but attainable. In fact, facing these challenges is imperative if you want to keep your leadership style relevant.

Here’s how to confront and adapt your leadership style to meet the demands of the modern business world:

Align your perception with reality.

The first step is self-awareness. Take the time to write out a self-evaluation. Describe what you think your leadership style is, making sure to include strengths and weaknesses, as well as how you believe others see you. Ask a trusted colleague to write a similar evaluation of you. Next, compare your self-evaluation with theirs and see if and where there may be discrepancies. Those areas are the perfect places to discuss and dig deep to help you better understand your current leadership style.

Next, think about how you want to grow. Were the discrepancies you discovered in the self-evaluation exercise an indicator that your leadership style is not what you thought? Does it outline places for growth? Focus on them, and write out your personal goals for improvement or for taking your leadership style in a different direction.

Know your people.

Your leadership style might also need to change and adapt depending on the people you are leading. Some team members might like receiving clear marching orders and then go off to get their work done. Others might prefer to know the “why” of certain tasks and do their best work when they feel like part of a team. Though you should not make drastic flip-flops in your leadership style, it is important to know your team and how they like being led. Having that information will make your job much easier and more efficient.

Account for outside pressures.

Of course, there are also outside pressures that can affect how you lead in any given situation. A project may be time-sensitive, so taking time for lengthy meetings or wide-ranging team feedback is not feasible. You may have a vision for the outcome of a task but are not clear on how to achieve it, so you need to ask the experts on your team for guidance.

As a leader in the modern business world, you will find yourself in situations that require you to adapt your leadership style slightly to achieve success. A Harvard Business Review article suggests preparing for those moments by developing a portfolio of micro-behaviors you can employ when the situation demands you use a different style.

Admittedly, it is not an easy feat on one’s own. Try asking for feedback from your team or hiring a leadership coach to help you navigate the tricky waters of leadership in today’s business world. Only by understanding yourself, your team and the various challenges in the workforce that you may face can you prepare accordingly and excel as a leader in the modern era.

This article has previously been featured on Forbes

Setting Your Team Up For Success When You Are Out Of The Office

How comfortable are you being out of the office? Between conferences, sick days, vacations or family emergencies—there are several reasons why you might need to be unreachable for a period of time. When you are absent, are you nervous that disaster is imminent? Are you thinking about the daunting number of emails and phone calls you’ll have to respond to upon your return?

You’re not alone. Leaders can be pulled in a lot of directions and feel the need to put out every single fire. However, good managers know how to set up an office environment that won’t break down every time they step out of the building.

Setting Up The Office Machine

The first step to setting your team up for success when you are out of the office is to prepare them while you are present. Think of your team as a sleek well-oiled machine. There are lots of cogs and pieces that need to be put in the right place to be at their most effective. There may be bugs to iron out. Team members may require occasional maintenance and an instruction manual—documents and guidelines to consult when troubleshooting unexpected issues.

Delegation and efficient problem-solving are major aspects of getting the machine up and running. Many team leaders feel the need to solve every problem themselves, but they are setting themselves up for failure because it simply can’t be one person’s job. Therefore, many of the minor difficulties should be delegated.

Discuss different types of problems that may arise on a day-to-day basis. Define them and practice problem-solving on all levels so that you can leave with confidence knowing that less-significant issues will be dealt with in the correct way.


When it is time for you to leave, make sure that you communicate your absence to the right people—preferably everyone that you may interact with on a day-to-day basis. If it’s a sudden absence, an OOO automatic email response may be sufficient, but try to include when you expect to be back. Your team will be less nervous about your departure and less likely to bother you if they have a date in mind when they know they’ll be able to reach you.

When taking a vacation, do your best to time it so that important team projects are not at a crucial stage when your input is most needed. While that may not always be possible, settle as much as you can before you leave. Let your team know that any other major decisions can be discussed when you get back and lay out parameters for decisions that you feel confident they can make themselves.

Always clearly communicate the team’s work priorities and expectations while you are away. While arranging for a leave of absence can require some preparation, training your team to be more self-sufficient can make your time both in and out of the office more manageable.

This article has previously been featured on Forbes

Navigating Leadership In A Time Of Hybrid Work And Return-To-Office Policies

The COVID-19 crisis has changed the landscape in offices across the world. Companies whose CEOs claimed that they would never allow a work-from-home policy found that they had no choice but to institute one.

Now that working in a physical office is becoming safer again, leaders are beginning to re-evaluate. Several Fortune 100 companies are calling workers back in with sweeping return-to-office (RTO) policies, so should your company do the same?

Making The Decision

If you are in a leadership position that allows you to participate in the decision-making process in dictating your company’s new work structure, there are a few key questions to consider.

What are my company’s core values? Corporate culture and values should be a part of every major decision because they ultimately define a successful business. Consider whether an in-person work model is a crucial part of maintaining these principles.

What do my employees have to say on the matter? Ask for opinions and input from all levels. Employees may provide the critical piece of data you need to make an informed decision. Plus, their morale is a crucial part of a company’s success. Would they be motivated or disheartened if called back into the office? Even if you ultimately make a choice some disagree with, just asking for their thoughts can garner goodwill.

Have you seen a noticeable difference in productivity levels from employees working at home? Look at the data to decide if an in-person working model could possibly boost or decrease productivity.

What are the COVID-19 safety protocols that should be put in place? Signage that encourages frequent handwashing, hand-sanitizing stations in common areas and mask policies are all examples of hygiene regulations that I have seen implemented. The CDC guidelines are a fantastic resource to consult when choosing these protocols.

What are some hybrid options? An RTO policy does not have to be all or nothing. Perhaps the best option is a hybrid model that requires workers to attend on a few designated days a week, but they get the option to stay home on others.

Empowering Employees Through Change

Regardless of your company’s final decision, remember that change can be scary for people—especially for those who feel powerless during the decision-making process.

In order to keep employees engaged and productive, be sure that a team’s expectations are clearly communicated. Keep a living document that employees can consult from time to time. Among other things, this document should outline the company’s COVID-19 policies, employee expectations and communication guidelines.

Speaking of communication, today’s knowledge workers use several different channels, and each may have a favorite. However, with all the text messages, video calls, phone calls, emails, Slack messages and social media DMs, information can easily be lost or buried. To avoid confusion, I recommend outlining acceptable use for each type of channel.

For example, use Slack to arrange meetings or ask quick non-project-related questions. Emails can be a great way to outline progress reports or meeting notes. As a team, decide on the right form of communication for the right occasion so that information does not get lost. Make sure to keep this information in your living document and send reminders occasionally to make sure the team is adhering to the plan.

Clear communication and expectations are key to your success as a leader in these times of hybrid work models. Whether working from the office or from the comfort of your couch, successful teamwork can be possible.

This article has previously been featured on Forbes

Not All Collaborations Are Created Equal: How To Manage True Teamwork

As the saying goes, “Two heads are better than one,” but paradoxically, there’s also such a thing as “too many cooks in the kitchen.” Collaboration is an integral part of an effective workplace environment, yet in many teams, the idea drudges up intense feelings of dread and frustration. In those cases, employees are reliving past experiences of collaboration gone wrong.

There are several ways that managers can guide these essential projects, starting with clearly defining what the collaborative effort entails.

Defining Collaborations

Group projects vary widely based on industry, company size and department. Yet all teams must undergo collaboration for the company to thrive. Where some organizations succeed and others fail is correctly identifying the objectives and characteristics of each collaboration. Recent survey findings from McKinsey break down collaborations into three main overarching categories: decision making, creative solutions and coordination and information sharing.

Decision-making projects are ones that require collaborators to meet virtually or in person to arrive at a clear decision, whether that decision is responding to a specific question or to more generic routine decisions and processes. These types of conversations revolve around yes or no decisions or creating a streamlined process for a routine project.

Creative-solutions collaborations involve brainstorming sessions for more out-of-the-box thinking to unique and new challenges an organization may face. Often the objective of these projects is to conceptualize solutions to present to the final decision-maker.

Information sharing is a task most employees undertake daily. Whether it’s a presentation, an email, a memo or a town hall, this collaboration requires one or two parties to communicate information to one another in a clear and concise manner.

Managing Collaborations

Here are some ways to successively manage an effective collaboration:

1. Clearly define the roles of each person and their contribution to the final objective. In decision-making projects, many teams believe that individuals have an equal amount of say. Yes, we want to empower employees to use their voices and contribute value where they can. However, the leader must communicate the role of the participants from the very beginning. If a teammate believes that their voice holds more weight than it does, they may feel disgruntled at the misunderstanding—and rightly so.

2. Lay out the value a collaborative project may have compared to individual responsibilities. This knowledge will enable employees to prioritize their workload and allocate the right amount of time to a project without feeling burdened.

3. Decide upon pre-arranged parameters for the meeting. What is the time limit? What are the objectives of the meeting? Who gets to speak and when? Who should participate? Collaborations require communication, and running structured meetings increases productivity and reduces the risk of wasting valuable time. Also, by looking at the objective of a meeting, managers can decide if their participation is necessary or if they can step away and focus on other projects.

4. Assign roles based on experience and interest.Encouraging employees to take on responsibility for projects that skew to their natural talents and curiosity can spur initiative.

5. Ask participants to send short Monday emails. Request bullet points communicating their tasks and goals for the week. In doing so, the leader can take a big-picture look at the team’s progress and redirect if need be. These plan-oriented emails are much more effective than Friday progress reports and can prevent wasted effort.

Graduates of our leadership courses implemented these strategies with their organizations and shared positive feedback about how they have effectively course-corrected projects and inspired participants to see collaborative efforts in a more optimistic light. We encourage you to evaluate your own team’s interactions, implement any needed changes and see the difference for yourself.

This article has previously been featured on Forbes


How To Mentor During A Crisis

The last couple of years have been quite a test for everyone. Business professionals have had their own special challenges on top of the regular problems we’ve all been experiencing. It’s stressful enough navigating “the new normal”—which seems to take one step forward and two back at times.

One of the many trials we’ve had to face as employees is a general lack of engagement. Many people find at least some sort of camaraderie in the workplace. We miss the team efforts, the celebrations on a job well done and the commiserating over a contract that fell through.

One of the work relationships that has been taking quite a beating these last two years is mentor/mentee interactions. Some of us didn’t even realize (let alone acknowledge) how much of a boost we experienced—no matter which side of the equation we were on.

For mentees, it can be frustrating to not have handy access to their mentor for advice and guidance. During these disrupted times, we miss the stability of that relationship. For mentors, it’s vexing to not be able to help your mentee along through the sometimes confusing maze of corporate leadership.

Becoming A Mentor

Although mentoring may not come naturally to you, and although it may seem to be yet another heavy burden to shoulder during the uncertainty of the pandemic, the benefits you could reap will make the effort more than worthwhile. For some managers, being a mentor comes easily. Those are the lucky ones.

As John C. Maxwell tells us in his book Mentoring 101: What Every Leader Needs to Know, “The more you understand people, the greater your chance of success in mentoring. And if you have highly developed people skills and genuinely care about others, the process will probably come to you naturally.”

For others, taking the plunge into the mentoring world is more difficult. If you tend to be the shy, quiet, technical type, seeking out a mentee could prove very perplexing. If you fall into that category, it might help to discuss the prospect with someone who initially had problems finding a mentee, but then got into the flow of it and now enjoys the process very much.

Mentoring Through Crisis

Combatting the mentor/mentee separation that has strained many of us during this crisis requires creativity and perseverance. A technique that has worked out well with one of my newer mentees (one I took on just before the Covid-19 shutdown) is that each Monday, rain or shine, we email a random quote to each other. It may be a quote that is inspirational or one that highlights the struggle either one of us is going through at that time. It’s just a small gesture, but it begins the week with the sentiment that we’ve been thinking of each other and appreciate the effort we both put into the success of the relationship.

If your company is looking for low-cost ways to foster morale, setting up a mentoring program is a strong option. There is so much to gain and almost nothing to lose. Now more than ever, most employees are craving personal interaction. A conference call, a video call, an email or a text may not fill the void. People need to relate with other people to feel confident that their careers are on track.

In my experience, mentorship can dispel loneliness, depression, stalled personal growth, identity crises and feelings of low self-worth. Here are a few tips for being a better mentor during this, or any, crisis:

• Practice active listening and restate what the other person is saying to you so they understand they are being heard.

• Show empathy. Their concerns may not be even close to your concerns during this confusing time, and they deserve to be heard and understood. Let the other person know that they are in your thoughts.

• Praise them often when they show initiative, resourcefulness and passion regarding the project at hand. Everyone deserves an encouraging word.

In their book Bridging Differences for Better Mentoring: Lean Forward, Learn, Leverage, authors Lisa Z. Fain and Lois J. Zachary explain, “One of the most beneficial aspects of mentoring is its inherent reciprocity. When reciprocity is present, both mentor and mentee fully engage in the relationship. If the relationship is truly working, there is a big payoff for both parties. Perspectives expand, and each person gains new insight into where their mentoring partner is coming from.”

Being a mentor may give you more satisfaction than you ever thought possible. Sharing the journey from new and unsure employee to confident, stable and successful contributor is a genuine gratification that will likely leave you wanting to repeat the process with yet another employee wanting to excel.

This article has previously been featured on Forbes