Although leadership skills are essential for the growth of any organization, who we see as an ‘effective leader’ has significantly evolved.

The autocratic and rigid management style once that was the norm, may not cut it with today’s workforce. As a result, new-age leadership is anchored in emotional intelligence, flexibility, and purpose. These leaders are more aligned with the unique needs of the workforce and are unafraid to bring their own distinct ideas and life experiences to inform how they lead.

Emotional intelligence is the primary driver of success

 An Accenture study shows that 61% of emerging leaders believe it’s no longer enough to do business for the sake of business; they want to also have a positive impact on society. The premium now is on capabilities, new insights, solutions, and talent rather than age, regardless of the industry or sector.

Furthermore, youth might often be equated with an abundance of energy and ideas, but its potential extends far beyond. Therefore, being around young talent can help bring in fresh perspectives and expertise. Digital natives and entrepreneurs of startups are incorrigible risk-takers and are unafraid of failing. While they are comfortable with emerging technology and speak the language that resonates with the workforce, they are equally high on emotional quotient (EQ), have an innovative vision for the organization, and are unafraid to back it with action.

Listen to the podcast on new-age leadership with Kulmeet Bawa:

Leading with empathy is more than “I hear you”

New-age leadership, built on engagement and innovation, can foster exceptional engagement in the workplace. Empathy is one of the key qualities that is fast coming to occupy a pride of place in the management playbook. Being able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes also reflects that the employees are heard, recognized, and appreciated.

Many might also argue that sharing personal stories should not be a part of workplace discussion. In the contrary, connecting with your employees on a human level by sharing valuable life lessons as a mentor and leader can serve as inspiration. In current times when hybrid models is the new working style, being able to forge a bond through personal stories is a great way to build trust.

Collaborative leadership is the road to the future

The world has fundamentally altered, and leaders today are more open and aware of ‘people power’ and this reflects in their approach to leadership as well. This is the reason why there’s no one style that is gospel anymore. New-age leadership is a permutation and combination of several traits along with the drive to innovate, adapt and develop solutions. Much like the army, where different skill sets are required to succeed, in the organization too, we need a good mix of diverse leaders – who are willing to lead with a vision.

Owing to the increasing complexity ‘moonshot thinking’ will gain more importance. That means motivating teams to think big by framing problems as solvable and encouraging them to explore new ways to think about the future will be the approach. This can be applied to any discipline and will also increase the individual’s productivity.

To sum it up, new-age leadership is the capacity to ‘not only know the way but also go the way and show the way.’  In other words, we realize the true potential of a leader in ourselves, not only by the work we do but by the work we inspire others to do. Individuals who understand this, strive to be more adaptable, learn continuously, and have an open and innovative bent of mind to create winning organizational cultures, will not just survive but thrive in this era of digital disruptions.

Kulmeet Bawa is president and managing director of the SAP Indian Subcontinent.

An edited version of this article was published by The Financial Express on May 25, 2023.