Irish Managers Should Live the Dream and Distribute Leadership

There was no ‘right’ leadership style, but Irish managers who wanted to be effective leaders should live the dream and distribute leadership in their organisation through coaching, Dr. Simon Boucher, Chief Executive Officer, Irish Management Institute, told the Conference.

Dr. Simon Boucher
Dr. Simon Boucher

“The last thing people want is a Hollywood style of leadership. They want authenticity,” he said.

“I don’t think many people would have stopped to listen or take action in 1963 if Martin Luther King Jnr had said he had a deadline or a strategic plan, although we need strategic plans. But they listened and acted because he had ‘a dream.’

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“We need to have a dream or a clear vision of what our organisation is about and be able to communicate it to all our employees. We should remember what the janitor said to President John F. Kennedy when the President visited the NASA headquarters for the first time, in 1961. He introduced himself to a janitor who was mopping the floor and asked him what he did at NASA. The janitor told him he was helping to put a man on the moon.”

“NASA had understood and communicated the dream. As leaders we have a huge opportunity if we see ourselves as story tellers and if we value and understand the power of words.”

“Some companies have a chief storytelling officer; whose job is to try and work out how they connect to the lives of people in the organisation.”

“Coaching is also a crucial leadership skill. There are things an algorithm will never be able to do better than us and coaching is one of them. The day to day work of a coach is to support to staff. because of the changing expectations of our organisations and teams.
“Coaching delivers sustainable success and by distributing leadership allows us distribute responsibility – like the Irish team which beat the All Blacks.”

Dr. Boucher, who spoke on “Leadership in a VUCA World,” said VUCA was originally coined at the US Army War College at Westpoint to describe the new global environment in which the US army had to work. It stood for volatile uncertain complex, and ambiguous, all of which could be said to define our modern work environment.

Coaching delivers sustainable success and by distributing leadership allows us distribute responsibility – like the Irish team which beat the All Blacks.

“Volatility has to do with the rate of change what is driving change. Number one is technology. It is very hard for people and organisations to understand the power of the technology at their fingertips. Public policy finds it even more difficult, in view of the time it takes to develop public policy, and have it scrutinised and assessed, which means you operate in an uniquely challenging atmosphere.”

He said the adoption of new technology was accelerating. For example, it took radio 38 years to reach 50 million users, which could now be done in a few days on social media.
“McKinsey Global Institute said that as fast as innovation had multiplied in recent years it was poised to change and grow at an exponential speed beyond the power of human intuition to anticipate.”

“More data has been created in the last 24 months than in the rest of human history.”
“Forty years ago, Laureate Herbert Simon said that when information was plentiful, attention became a scarce resource.”

“We could now ask if strategies even exist anymore because we need to think in far faster timeframes.”

Dr. Boucher said a Deloite survey showed that Irish leaders and managers ranked information overload as the single biggest issue they faced.

“You might think you are working harder than your predecessors and that’s because you are. “The work we do now is harder than what our predecessors had to do because we are swimming in data. More information has been collected in last two years than rest of history.”

“People are now processing eight time more data in their work than the person doing the same job ten years ago.”

“On average, we pick up and look at our phones 150 times a day. In a world where we are distracted by technology, how can we work?.”

“We are surrounded by information. Is it helping to make better leaders and managers? At present, managers spend four out of five of their working lives in meetings, so where do we get time to do the real work?.”

“Information overload and the always-connected 24/7 work environment are overwhelming workers, undermining productivity and contributing to low employee engagement.”

“Sixty per cent of tasks done at work could be more efficiently done by a robot and it is suggested that by 2025 almost 50 percent of all jobs globally will be threatened by robots.”
Dr. Boucher said we were living in an uncertain level because there has been a breakdown in people’s trust in public bodes.

By 2025 three quarters of the people you manage will be millennials.

“An Ipsos Global Trends survey has shown 69 per cent of people believed they could trust their supermarkets, but only 36 per cent felt they could trust their government and governments in general. About two thirds of the people in the survey said their managers did not relate to people like them.

“We are living in a world of distrust. There was a 3-point decrease in the global trust index between 2016 and 2017. Two out of three countries are now distrusters. Trust has declined in 21 of 28 countries – the broadest declines since beginning General Population tracking in 2012. In Ireland there has been a breakdown in trust in institutions.”

Dr Boucher said that millennials had different beliefs about their employment and wanted different things from work to their predecessors. “Millennials will soon be in the majority of employees. “By 2025 three quarters of the people you manage will be millennials.”

Turning to stress and the effect managers’ stress had on their performance and the environment they created, he said that most senior managers were burned out and one in three executives was extremely burned out.

“The number one cause of stress in your work environment is you. Take your stress seriously. You can’t keep your stress to yourself. People pick up on our stress so if you are stressed or really stressed you are causing ripples right across your organisation.

“One of the best things you can do as a leader is to connect a little more consciously to gauge your own level of stress and how it is seeping out Patton’s law is that we should be an example and we need to be an example in a world where stress and pressure may affect us and others.”

Dr. Boucher said that by 2025, 47 per cent of all jobs globally would be threatened by automation. Sixty per cent of tasks done at work could be handed over to a robot tomorrow. But 40 per cent of CEOs in Ireland believed their companies were not ready to adopt artificial intelligence technologies. Or alternatively, 60 per cent of CEOs believed that their companies could replace jobs with robots.