As we move from generation to generation, leaders do not do well without adapting to change. The change affects an organization, and if we can’t solve the problems it causes, it will turn into profit problems. Especially after the pandemic, it caused many motions in the workplace and amplified the existing problems back then. In this episode, Laurie Battaglia, the author of Aligned Workplaces, is redefining time by diving into the old and new world of leadership and the rules that need to change. She also touches on leaders’ role in their company on the idea of layoff and emphasizes the balance between “all-profit” and “all people.” Leaders need to wake up from delaying the change that’s starting to occur and take action now. Tune in to this episode to ride the tides of change.
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Aligned Workplaces: The Future Of Leadership With Laurie Battaglia
I’m excited to have you all here and we are going to talk about something important. We’re going to talk about the future of leadership. We have our expert and I always have an expert here for you. Her name is Laurie Battaglia. She is the CEO of Aligned at Work, a leadership development consultancy firm with an emphasis on diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging. She helps to solve problems before they become profit problems.
As a strategic advisor, executive coach and inclusive leadership consultant, she is on a mission to wake up organization leaders who think that they can delay inevitable changes that are already affecting the workplace. Her career has been for many years. She worked for some of the largest investment and banking companies. Without further ado, Laurie, welcome to the show. Let’s get into it.
Thank you. This could be fun.
I’m excited to talk about the future of leadership. There are so many things I want to ask you. We just came up with what this is. What does that mean to you, the future of leadership? Let’s start there. Has leadership changed?
I was doing talks, conversations and leadership training for many years. I started seeing some significant shifts that leaders weren’t picking up on. Probably back in 2018 or 2019 when I started gathering my statistics for talks that I was giving, all the signs were there that there were big changes afoot. What brought it to the top of the heap was that the pandemic set out all the wheels in motion to have this cataclysm come together. When that pandemic happened, people had time to think, at least those of us that could work from home or someplace other than that long commute that many of us have had for many years. I know I did.
Suddenly, people started to realize that they were in this time of, A) Having a bit more time to think maybe and, B) If they didn’t have time to think, it was probably because they had a lot of family obligations or other obligations in life that were taking that time. The pandemic caused us all to have one of those moments like people have when a big sickness hits them or something. They realized that life could be short. It elevated things and escalated this thing into something that we couldn’t deny any longer. Although people are still denying it.
The pandemic only shined a light and amplified the existing problems that we already had. I want to go back to something that you said. Big changes were coming. Talking about leadership, what do you think are the fundamental changes in leadership? I don’t know how you’ve researched this in the past but I’d be curious about the different phases of leadership, where we’ve been and where we’re going. Let’s talk about that.
When I started putting the information together, part of it was gathering from my own, listening to people, hearing them say things and spotting trends, which is something I’ve had the knack for doing for a long time. I then went looking for the research to find out, “Was it true?” Yes, it is. Some of the things that were coming up previously but accelerated were things like work-life balance.
I like to call it work-life harmony or integration because I don’t think you ever get the true balance. It implies that it’s always going to be even but it’s whatever you want. It’s time to do things outside of work that you want to do. Whether that’s time with friends or family and applying it to some hobby or something that you want to do, there’s that striving for a life that’s more than just work. A lot of us are workaholics or reformed workaholics, 1 of the 2, because that’s part of the old rules of leadership.
Mental health is at the forefront of conversations. Being a Baby Boomer, we never talked about that ever. How do you have that conversation even if you want to have that conversation? Another big driver has been the impact of social media. People have realized that they are not the only voice out there. What they’ve been talking about or thinking, there are other people around them. No matter what side of any argument you’re on, other people think as you think. When that community of like-minded people gets together, you realize that there’s some strength in this and that maybe you’re not the only voice out there.
Leaders have had to, all of a sudden, adapt to this big thing where people are suddenly thinking about their jobs and lives differently. They’re talking about mental health issues and social media. They’re not just so willing to figure that, “It must be me and I have to kowtow the way my leader says things are, my manager or boss,” whatever you want to call them. They’re not willing to roll over and take it anymore. Leaders are struggling with that a lot. Even if they never liked it themselves, they’re used to things like, “The boss’ opinion is the one that matters. We hired you to do the job so come in here and spend long hours.” All of a sudden, it’s all very different.
From the way that I’m looking at it, I want to pull out some behaviors that I’m hearing from you that I talk about because I have this concept that one of the big things that are changing is our relationship with control. We have this innate need. Let’s get over that. We’re all control freaks because it is innate within our being to want to be in control. Different people come at it differently. If we talk about leadership, what I’m hearing you say in the past is that there was this kind of dictatorship where it’s like, “I did the time. You have to do the time. I’m in this authority position and you will respect me because of my position.”We're all control freaks because it is innate to us to control, and different people come at it differently. Click To Tweet
Those are very old-school ways of thinking but that’s how we controlled it. We work hard. We’d have the control and the power. We would submit it in the beginning. I’m part of this culture. I grew up in that as well. You do the time. I’ll submit now recognizing that I have to do what I’m told. I will get to that position of power and I can tell everyone else what to do because that’s what power is. It’s control over others. It comes from expecting too much from people, pushing them too hard and things like that. Give me your thoughts on that idea of the old leadership.
You’ve nailed it. It is about the control issue. I’ve got this list. I worked for a while to skinny it down from 15 old rules that need to change to 12 old rules that need to change. I got it down to seven of the old rules that need to change. When I started pulling it apart, there are so many of the things that we take for granted having been born into a time and place in history that we think things are normal a certain way. Everything then shifts and changes and we think the world has gone mad. When I got it down to the seven, I thought, “What is it about these things? These are the ones that would make the biggest impact if we could look at things differently.”
It would shift us from that old mentality to where we need to be. Would you mind sharing what those rules are?
The first one is profit over people was the old way of looking at things but in the new world, people and profit are balanced. You don’t get to full profit without people buying into it. We used to think, “We’ll get more people. If they don’t like it, don’t let the door get you on the way out.” That was the first one. The other one is I started reading more about Gen Z. I’ve got granddaughters in Gen Z. I’ve got kids in the millennial and Gen X generation so I have the full-scale all adapted here.
On the old rules, work was a place that you went to and a thing or a vocation that you did. In the new world, it’s something that you do but you could do it from anywhere. If you think about people that are in the younger generations, they’re all laptop, phone and pad-driven so they can do that from any place at all. In the old world, we wanted people to dedicate their lives to the company. In the new world, we talk about work-life harmony. How do we build this life where work and life are in harmony with whatever kind of music we want it to be for us?
The fourth one is, in the old world, the boss was the boss and their opinion was the only one that mattered so you had to do what they said. Now, we expect our leaders to walk the talk and lead by example. We expect our opinion to matter too. No matter who we are or how new in the workplace we are, we want our opinion to matter and to feel heard.
This is a big one. I work in a lot of male-dominated industries and this is one that still lives on in different ways. Hide your vulnerability at work or it will be used against you. It’s about how your vulnerability gets exploited at work. Whereas in the new world, we want people to feel safe, physically, psychologically, emotionally, to be themselves. I find that that one oftentimes lives on in the idea that, “If we don’t trash talk you, then we don’t like you very much. If we like you, we’re going to constantly come at you.” People buy into that. First, they’re put off by it, get used to it and then it starts to happen. That’s a big shift.
Two more. You’ve got 1 chance and 1 role to make it in the old world. In the new world, assuming that the company is big enough to have the opportunities, if the role isn’t a fit for your strengths and skills, let’s find something that fits better. Let’s give you an opportunity to try something rather than tossing out the employee and having to start fresh.
The last one is, “Put your head down and get the work done at all costs. That’s what we hired you to do.” In the new world, it’s, “Lift your head and align your work with our greater purpose.” People want the organizations that they work for to stand for something and make some difference in the world. We’re seeing that across generations.
To that point, because that’s the last one you said, it’s not just the organization that wants that but it’s their clients that want that. They want organizations that care about their employees that are giving back to the community. They’re going to pay more and are willing to purchase from those companies that are doing that.
Stock price goes up when you’re supporting good things in the world because people come in to support that.
I’ve been at college fairs and I’ve seen the reaction of the students. The line is out the door to talk to the companies that they see have a purpose. The other ones, there’s nobody there. You can see that Gen Z-ers especially and the Millennials are choosing the companies that they want to work for based on what they stand for.
The funny thing is I feel like when Baby Boomers were new to the workforce, they came in with big ideas. I was starting to skim an article. I didn’t get it all read but it was about, part of the problem is that Baby Boomers are jealous of Gen Z. Gen Z comes in and says, “I’m not doing that or that way.” They feel like, “I had to earn my dues here. I didn’t get to do that.”
I always say we came in to fight the man and we became the man. There’s some of that at play as well. People have wanted a purpose for a long time but never fully realized that the generations coming in are like, “That’s a deal breaker for me.” They want their companies to take a stand on laws and what’s going on in the world, political things and religious things that the Boomer generation did not talk about.
They don’t want to sweep it under the carpet and not address how it’s affecting people in their everyday lives. You’re seeing a lot of that. Something that you mentioned that I thought was unique and interesting that I hadn’t thought of was this idea of group think. With social media and so much public, there is more power in your thoughts because you can connect with other people who have similar mindsets in different positions or stand for the same thing. Therefore, you’re less likely to sweep it under the rug and say, “I’ll tolerate it.” You understand that you have a voice and we see that with this group think. Whether they call it the Great Resignation or whatever name it’s being called by, people are standing for themselves.
There’s something to what you said. It’s not that this is new. They wanted purpose and to be treated fairly. Who doesn’t? They feel like they have an opportunity to stand up. In our generation, people didn’t because they were afraid they would lose their job. There’s not that fear anymore. They’re like, “I’ll get another one somewhere else. I’ll do something else.”
That’s another big shift, leaving without another job to go to because who would do that? I can imagine my World War II parents are like, “You did what?
They’re like, “I’ll figure it out.” They’re more resilient in that context. I heard somebody in the pandemic say, “The children of today are going to be so much more fearful and withdrawn.” I’m like, “Yes and no.” We’ve constantly had big issues going on in the world, whether it’s depression, recession or a war. We’ve had other types of disease situations, even smaller but maybe local, mad cow disease and these other different localized things. Some of them spread wider but we’ve always had that. It makes people more resilient. It comes back to this point of people taking more control of what they have control over. That’s where we can’t lead in the same way because it doesn’t work. It wasn’t good before but it worked to some degree.
It’s like a Pandora’s box that got open. You can’t close it again.
For anybody that’s resisting, it’s like, “We are not going back.” That’s not the way progress, growth and learning work. You don’t go back. We’re not going back to that normal. This is our new normal so get used to it.
When I go out and do talks, that’s the message. “Leaders, they’re not coming back. You can change or not but you’re going to be very quickly obsolete.” I mentor in a couple of programs. One of the things that I hear a lot is, “My boss is so out of touch.” That doesn’t have to do with age as much as it does just not having the experiences that that employee is having and then not trusting that employee’s reporting of those experiences, trying to explain it away or mitigate it like, “It’s not as bad as you think it is.” Trying to do those things are not tolerated anymore.You can change or not, but you’re going to be very quickly obsolete. Click To Tweet
Another thing that is interesting to watch is LinkedIn for a long time is all business all the time. A while back, it got a little bit more Facebook where we can bring our personal stuff to it, which I like. I can’t say that I’m not a fan of where we are. I don’t like when any social media shows me nothing but ads. If I can see the people that I want to follow, yes. The people that are on there are very different. A few years ago, I would still talk to people who would say, “My employer has my sign-on information.” I would say, “Stop that. That’s not for them to have. Go change your password.” “I can’t do that.”
Now, employees have their brands out there and they’re putting their opinions forward. Sometimes leaders don’t like it. Some companies are extremely supportive of it. Others are tolerating it. Some do not tolerate it. I would say for the ones who do not tolerate it, be very careful because people will find a way. You will get known as somebody who wants too much control and you won’t be getting the best and the brightest in the organization.
In each one of those points, you look at, “Where can we let go of trying to control? How will that open us up to what is the future of leadership? What do people want today,” whether it’s their LinkedIn profiles. “Where do they want to work? How do they want to work?” There has to be some compromise. I’ve also found that in some of the comments that have been coming on, there’s been a lot of leadership bashing. Maybe we can also talk about that because I’ve seen some comments from some high-profile people. I thought to myself, “Have these people ever run an organization?”
I was the CEO of my company. I built it up and sold it to a public company. I was in a broader, bigger executive role. I had to be involved in many turnarounds and let people go at times. I didn’t want to but you have a responsibility also to run the business. I’d like you to take a moment to speak to this leadership bashing and where both sides need to have some understanding in terms of the change. It’s also not fair to say just because layoffs happen, that’s wrong and layoffs should not happen.
Sometimes, it’s how you do the layoff because I’ve had to be involved in laying people off and firing people at different times in my career to get through it. If you’re going to be a leader, you’re going to have that or some version of that happen sooner or later. I don’t believe in leadership bashing. Leadership is more art than science. There are things that you don’t want to do but even if you do it right all the time, it won’t be right all the time and it won’t be right for this person. I don’t think you ever want to take your eye off the profit. Having worked in banking and financial services and investment banking for my old career, you don’t want to take your eye off the profit.
If you’re not profitable, you can’t pay your people.
Amen to that.
If your whole company goes under, then what? It’s not just for the investors. It’s for a stable company to make sure that you can deliver the salaries, the bonuses and everything that people are expecting. If a company comes upon hard times, competition comes in and they’re no longer competitive, they need to figure out how to shift. It might mean cutting some costs in areas that are challenging.
Sometimes when you’re cost-cutting, some things have been going on for a long time that are people’s favorites and they don’t want to get rid of them. In hard times, you got to do what you got to do to keep things running. There are ways to lead people through those times where you can preserve their dignity. It’s more than anything and the big thing so that they can go on.
Sometimes a layoff is, I hate to say it, exactly what you needed in your life at that time. Sometimes I’ve seen people who got laid off and suddenly had family health issues or their health issues come up. They said, “Thank God that I was not working right at the time because I never could have managed it.” It’s a kick in the butt to go get something better.
When people balance on the profit, the stock price and everything, humans get wind of that. They know when they’re not being valued. They know when they are valued. You don’t want to tip it too far either way where it’s all profit, no people or all people, no profit. Been there, done that. I worked at those places. That’s when I had to lay people off and figure out how to get through those times. I worked and went under with the government. Talk about no profit and people getting in over their heads and things. It’s not a pleasant time.
It’s not easy to be in a leadership position. It’s like being a parent. You can learn certain skills but there are always new situations that are coming up and they’re always different than the last. You’ve got two kids and they’re different.
It works with this one. It does not work with that one.
That’s also the same in our leadership. It’s constantly changing. For people reading who are like, “My leader doesn’t get it,” how can you manage your manager? How can you help your leader be a better leader? I come from a place where I believe people want to do their best. Sometimes they’ve stressed themselves. Maybe it’s just asking for a little bit more transparency. What can you do to make your workplace a better workplace, get that leadership that you’re looking for and support that leader in making the changes that they need to make without judgment if that person is wrong or against you? What if we’re all in this together?
How crazy would that be? What if we all got along? That would be amazing.
I love your seven rules. Do you have a way to quickly name them again before we sign off?
The old rule is profit above people but the new rule is people and profit are balanced. Second, work is a place that you go to and a vocation that you do in the old world. In the new world, work is something you do from any place in the world. Third, dedicate your life to the company. The new rule is to build a life where work and life are in harmony. Fourth, the boss is the boss and only their opinion matters. In the new world, leaders walk the talk and lead by example. Your opinion matters.
Fifth, hide your vulnerability at work or it’ll be used against you. The new one is you’re safe here psychologically, physically and emotionally to be yourself. The sixth old rule is you’ve got 1 chance and 1 role to make it here. In the new world, if this role isn’t a fit for your skills and strengths, let’s try something else. The last one is to put your head down and get the work done at all costs. In the new world, we want you to lift your head and align your work with our greater purpose in the world. Those are the seven.
Thank you so much for being here. Is there anything that I didn’t ask you that you feel I should have asked you or you want to share before we go?
Not that I can think of but I do think if we focused on the changing expectations of employees as leaders, we could step into that and begin to tweak our expectations a little bit at a time. Nobody gets it overnight. It’s a constant unpeeling and unveiling.
Many times, expectations haven’t changed. That’s why when circumstances change, we have to reevaluate our expectations and see, “Are they real? Are they relevant for this circumstance and situation?” I would agree that that’s probably one of the main issues. Those expectations haven’t changed because expectations are how we control them.
One last thing is that if we just listen to people, acknowledge and validate their understanding of something and then meet them where they are, that would go a long way toward great leadership. We are coming from our point of view and think debating and arguing about it or explaining it away is probably the thing. That’s when people feel like they’re not being valued or heard. That to me is one of the basic tenets of feeling like you belong.
That’s interesting because that’s a leadership principle that is fundamentally tried and true but across all generations, it’s just to listen.
It’s a basic human need to feel heard.
It reminds me of a dear friend of mine, Dr. Thomas Duncan. He talks about making simple things better. Listening is simple but somehow, there’s a gap. We need to do those simple things better. Thank you, Laurie, for being here. I appreciate it. Where can people find out more information about you?
You can find me on LinkedIn. I’m all over LinkedIn so look up Laurie Battaglia. They can also go to our website, which is AlignedAtWork.com. That would do it. Laurie@AlignedAtWork.com is my email address. Reach out. I’m here.
Thank you so much.
Thank you, Penny.
Thank you all for being here. No matter what position you are in, if you are a leader and you’re looking at how you can be a better leader going forward or maybe you are thinking about stepping into leadership in the future, it’s so important to take these rules that Laurie had shared with us. Take them to heart and understand that just because you’ve been led a certain way doesn’t mean that that’s how you should lead others. We’re in a different place and time. We have so many generations in the workplace and you need to be able to lead all of them.
Seventy-five percent are Millennials and Gen Zs together. We’ve got to understand the new generations and what’s driving their thoughts, behaviors and decisions. Help them to be the best employee they can be while being the best leader that you can be. That’s what our episode is about, the future of leadership. I’ll see you in the next episode.
- Aligned at Work
- Laurie Battaglia – LinkedIn
- https://Amzn.to/3N2jAuN – Aligned Workplaces
About Laurie Battaglia
Laurie Battaglia is CEO of Aligned at Work®, a leadership development consulting firm with an emphasis on diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging that helps solve people problems before they become profit problems. As a strategic advisor, executive coach, and inclusive leadership consultant, she is on a mission to wake up organization leaders who think that they can delay inevitable changes already affecting the workforce. During her 35-year career, she worked for some of the nation’s largest investment and banking companies. She believes in balancing people and profits for a sustainable future, and her superpower is building trust quickly with clients, team members, and diverse communities. A grandmom, mom, stepmom, and Reiki Master Teacher, she lives in Scottsdale, Arizona, with her husband, Joseph, and two cats, Cheddar and Maximus.
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