The world keeps changing at a faster pace than ever before, and I remain puzzled why leadership style has hardly changed the last few centuries? To be blunt: we live in the 21st Century, using modern technology but leading with a 19th-century mindset! What is needed is an Anthropocentric leadership style. 

Lack of time

I remain puzzled about how little time (actually, NO time) Executives spend coaching and aligning their direct reports. In an age requiring more intellectual skills, autonomy and team collaboration; transactional leadership still prevails…

I’m puzzled about how little time is allocated to customer experience discussions by the CxOs and BoDs. In the age of increasing customer power, customer satisfaction is not part of daily conversations in business. Certainly, we use it for PR. Maybe we have it as a KPI? But it is not ‘top of mind’ for executives.

The illusion of leading & engaging digitally

The evolution of digital technology and the pace of globalisation will continually shift and impact the way we think, feel, communicate, work, behave, transact and interact with each other.

Unconsciously we feel that technology enables us to engage the masses (customers and employees) automatically and effortlessly! This is why Digital Transformation initiatives focus on technology, not on people.

Technology is an important commodity

Certainly, updating technology, re-engineering processes, re-skilling and training the workforce are all important for companies to remain competitive. But they are all a commodity today.

They are democratised, easily accessible, fast to deploy and affordable. Everybody has access to technology, efficiency methods and skill training.

But…people make the difference

Success, though, depends on people:

  • People will select the right (or wrong) technology provider
  • People will decide and act fast or slowly
  • People will design the new processes well or poorly
  • People will architect technology and processes to unite the organisation or to create many silos and micro-silos
  • People will decide how the new setup will be deployed and how it will be used
  • People will use technology to help or to frustrate people (customers)
  • People will use technology just to collect data and publish reports. Or they will use it to drive actions and improve customer experience
  • People will use AI to augment their abilities or undermine technology because of fear

The difference is in mindset

The difference is not just about people skills. It’s mainly about people mindset (customer focus, collaboration, aspiring for excellence) and behaviour.

If you have the right people on board – right capabilities = skills and mindset – and they are aligned to work together (instead of fighting against each other), you have a chance to keep changing, improving and succeeding. I am not talking exclusively about middle management, the digital experts or PMOs…

CxO alignment is scarce and critical to success

…I mean having the right people, well-aligned, at the top of the pyramid; The CxO level. This is where personal agendas, antagonism and power games prevail; undermining customer or employee experience.

Technology alone will not bring any benefits in a toxic, antagonistic environment where politics decide the agenda and “Digital Transformation” initiatives are used as an excuse to reorganise, ousting opponents.

Only a collaborative human-centric spirit can help organisations to operationalise the new technology and bring real benefits.

The anthropocentric leadership mindset

This is where the role of the CEO and the BoD matter, assuming and hoping that, at least, they have a human-centric mindset, genuinely believing that their organisation’s purpose is to satisfy customer needs.

Business is all about People serving People. Customer satisfaction shouldn’t be just the one KPI.
It should be at the top of the daily business discussion. The business focus should be improving the customer experience (CX) by aligning the organisation, continually improving the employee experience (EX).

Anthropocentric leadership in practice: aligning & coaching to improve CX and EX

If leaders have the right mindset, then they should also act, embracing basic principles of the digital age:

  • A customer-focused, aligned team can provide a great CX. This should be CxO’s top priority at all times
  • Engaging customers is a two-way communication, and companies need a capable team to harness data and provide the best experience
  • As technology and automation evolve, the ‘human factor’ becomes ever more critical for success
  • The more the jobs become autonomous, the more effort we need to align leaders and experts
  • Leadership is about serving, rather than instructing servants
  • Leadership is about breeding and leading better leaders, not about creating ‘followers.’
  • Leading leaders means principally aligning leaders
  • Aligning leaders means continuously coaching them, touching a deep psychological level to nurture trust and respect among them. Management meetings and off-site events alone are not enough to succeed!
  • Coaching direct reports to improve their capabilities is critical to success (our direct reports should learn and do the same to their direct reports)
  • Coaching is a significant time investment, additional to business performance management
  • Coaching is about two-way communication, between equals who support each other and are open to learning from each other
  • Leaders who do not have the coaching skills that they urgently need should be trained and start practising
  • Leaders who have no time to coach should FIND time. In the meantime, they can outsource it to external coaches. They should indeed find time to align their direct reports

Anthropocentric leaders focus on PEOPLE to succeed

This the most challenging TRANSFORMATION that companies will go through because it needs behavioural change at the top.

This article was originally posted by Dimitris on The Digital Transformation People website. 
Dimitris Kourepis
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