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I’ve said this many times here…leadership is changing and as a leader you have two choices, you adapt or you get replaced.

I interviewed over 140 of the world’s top CEOs for my new book, The Future Leader: 9 Skills and Mindsets to Succeed in the Next Decade, and this was the general consensus.

When we speak about the traditional concept of “management,” few people realize that this entire field was designed and developed to maintain the status quo, to avoid and resist change, and to enforce standards, rules, and protocols.

Managers were like juicers and employees were the fruit. The role of a manager was to get every ounce of juice out of their people.

Engagement? Health and well-being? Employee experience? Flexible work programs?


There are all relatively novel concepts and ideas. Thankfully we live and work in a new world, things are changing quickly. Nobody wants to be a manager and nobody wants to be managed (in the traditional sense).

What we need are more LEADERS, but this isn’t simply a name or title change, it’s a mindset and skillset change.

So how can you tell if you are working for this new breed of truly great leader?

Well, there are 5 signs to look out for.

Acts Like A Coach

Coaches and mentors are powerful instruments of change. Coaches help us all the time in our personal lives whether it be on the soccer field, in the gym, or in a therapy session. Why shouldn’t we have a coach in the workplace? And who better to be that coach than your leader? Truly great leaders (and I’m not necessarily talking about senior executives) encourage and empower their employees to accomplish their goals the same way a trainer would. These leaders see beyond their official job description to have a genuine and vested interest in the success of their people. These coaches believe in lifting up employees, removing obstacles from their paths, and helping them become more successful than they are. Perhaps the most crucial quality of a great coach is someone who is willing to make you more successful than they are!

Understands Your Weaknesses But Focuses On Your Strengths

It’s easy for us to get hung up on the shortcomings of others. If something doesn’t go as planned, just blame the weaknesses for failure. “Jim isn’t a great designer so we didn’t get the project.” “Brenda isn’t a great speaker so the client didn’t listen to her.”

It’s much harder to look past the weaknesses to instead focus on the strengths that individuals possess. This doesn’t mean simply turning a blind eye to weaknesses, it means understanding that they exist but looking beyond them to focus on what someone is truly good at.

John Wooden was one of the greatest coaches ever, he guided UCLA’s men basketball team to 7 championships…in a row. He understood that you can’t have a team where everyone is an all-star. However, John also knew he had certain players on the team who could only consistently make a basket from a certain part of the court. Instead of trying to get those players to be great shooters from the entire court, he would design plays so that the player would get the ball in the specific part of the court where they had the highest chance of scoring…he focused on their strengths.

Truly great leaders understand the strengths of their employees and they do what they can to make those strengths shine. We see this all the time in sports teams. We need to see more of this in the workplace and it starts with the leaders.

Wants To Know Your Story

Everyone has a story of where they came from, how they got to where they are today, what they care about and value, and what they want their life to look and be like. Your story is what makes you… you.

When I interview business leaders on my podcast, The Future of Work with Jacob Morgan, I always ask them where they came from and how they got to where they are. The stories I hear are truly amazing.

Truly great leaders want to know your story, they want to get to know you as a person not as simply someone who is filling a role on a team. This can be as simple as periodically checking in and saying, “How are you?” to taking employees out for coffee and talking about anything non-work related. Building this relationship is crucial for truly great managers.

Does your leader really know you and your story?

Embraces Vulnerability

Similar to the above, truly great leaders embrace their own weaknesses. They don’t put on the facade of being the all-knowing and all-powerful “leader.” Although they want to know your story, part of embracing vulnerability is leaders being comfortable sharing their story, who they are, their strengths, weaknesses, hopes and fears.

All too often we see our leaders act like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde where they have on persona for work and another persona at home. Great leaders have just one persona, it’s their authentic selves.

People don’t want to work for a robot, they want to for a human being and there is nothing more human than being vulnerable. This isn’t a weakness, it’s one of the greatest strengths that a leader can have!

Challenges Convention

Most concepts, ideas, and approaches in our organizations have been around for many decades. Our world has changed so much in the past few years yet our organizations are still stuck in a time warp. I like to say that we live in 2020 but work in 1975.

Just take a look at the impact that things like COVID-19 and Black Lives Matter have had on our organizations and lives. Within a matter of weeks we have had to change and adapt into something that we have been trying to accomplish for decades!

The whole approach of “we’ve always done it like that,” is the quickest way to land yourself out of a job and your company out of business.

Truly great leaders understand that sometimes starting fires is more valuable and important than trying to put them out. These are the leaders who not only ask, “Why are things done this way?” and “how can we do them better?” But they also embrace experimentation and challenging the status quo to come up with something better.

Whether it be getting rid of the annual review, implementing a new workplace practice, introducing a new technology, or redesigning a workplace, great leaders believe in going against the grain!

How many of these 5 things are you and your leaders doing? Share below!

Leadership is changing. What are the skills and mindsets you need to master in order to lead in the new world of work? According to over 140 of the world’s top CEOs there are 4 mindsets and 5 skills that leaders need to master. Learn what they are and hear directly from these leaders by downloading the PDF here.

If you enjoyed the article and want more content like this here’s what you can do:

  1. Subscribe to The Future of Work Podcast where I interview business leaders around the world each week.
  2. Grab a copy of The Future Leader which has been endorsed by the CEOs of MasterCard, Best Buy, Oracle, Audi, Unilever, Domino’s Pizza, Ritz Carlton, Kaiser, and Marshall Goldsmith. It explores the most essential skills and mindsets for future leaders.
  3. If you are or want to be an entrepreneur then my wife and I just launched a brand new podcast on how to Be Your Own Boss, called the BYOB Podcast where we share what we did and how we did it. You can subscribe to that here.

Image by lumix2004 from Pixabay