High Heels, High Tech, and High Expectations

High Heels, High Tech, and High Expectations

A Blog for Women in Leadership

Run the race and finish strong. That is the motto that I have lived by in my professional, personal, and spiritual endeavors for many years. For me it is a key foundation in my pursuit to be a Servant Leader, which represents a management style attuned to today’s often confusing workplace.

Many, though not all, organizations envision that sometime soon the “office” will return to a pre-pandemic normal. While there are many good reasons why both employees and employers value the in-office environment, it in no way should reflect an old-normal. Too much has changed over the past three years, and rolling back the clock is not realistic.

As an article from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania points out, “what defines ‘usual’ has changed, and both employees and managers are struggling to make sense of the shift. Employees are demanding more flexibility, better pay, and greater work-life balance. Meanwhile, executives still need to mind the bottom line while dealing with fragile supply chains, capricious consumers, a tight labor market, and increasing social and political pressures.”

Unfortunately, too many leaders — and their teams — seemingly have lost their way and are costing organizations dearly. The pandemic forced many employees into the unfamiliar territory of work from home (WFH). A 2022 survey by the Conference Board found that 47% of remote workers were concerned by the blurred boundaries between their work and personal lives, and 53% reported an increase in the number of hours worked.

Companies new to the remote work environment had to learn or make it up as they went along, with managers sometimes peppering vulnerable employees with emails and texts night and day. There often was no defined start and stop time, and too many bosses disregarded or were clueless about the lack of separation between professional and personal time. This may be a big contributor to why more than half of the U.S. workforce is “quiet quitting” — the phenomenon of staying on the job but doing only as much as needed to keep the paycheck coming in.

Leadership can’t just assume that everything will go back to the way it was. Despite the fears of a potential recession and the seemingly constant news of layoffs, particularly in the tech industry, workers today have more options than ever to find another job that meets their needs just as much as it meets the needs of the business. Some have realized that, by utilizing new tech tools, they can be as productive at home as in the office; others may believe that they only have to go into the formal workplace a couple of times per week or month to experience the benefits of face-to-face collaboration and teamwork.

Any leader who believes that they don’t need to pay attention to workers’ needs to achieve balance between their work and personal lives will be short-changing their organizations as millions of jobs continue to go unfilled amid record unemployment rates.

This is a time when leaders must learn how to help their teams rebound and finish strong. Instead of adopting autocratic management styles, or viewing boss-to-worker relationships as purely transactional, today’s leaders would do well to adopt the characteristics of servant leadership, including:

  • Providing vision and purpose
  • Leading by example
  • Setting expectations
  • Being trustworthy
  • Holding others accountable
  • Demonstrating compassion
  • Treating all employees fairly
  • Being empathetic to the feelings and needs of workers
  • Instilling confidence in their teams

“Whereas traditional leadership focuses on the success of the company or organization, servant leadership puts employees first to grow the organization through their commitment and engagement,” an article in CIO points out. “When implemented correctly, servant leadership can help foster trust, accountability, growth, and inclusion in the workplace.”

A leader earns trust from her team if she is credible, sticks to her word, and actively seeks solutions to any problems in the workplace. The lead by example leadership style can help you maintain high productivity. When you lead by example, your team will soon follow, working just as hard and accomplishing just as much to do their part for the organization.

More than ever, retaining good employees is more cost-effective than having to replace them. Loyal and happy employees have lower absenteeism, are more positive, contribute more to group discussions, volunteer to take on more projects or to help a coworker, and speak highly of their organization to friends, family, and neighbors.

As women in technology, we have the responsibility to instill strong leadership values into the next generation of women entering the leadership ranks. We all know leaders who have left a trail of bodies in their wake. The old school ways of women leaders climbing the corporate ladder at the cost of others will not work with this generation. Women want and need balance among professional, personal, and family life. This generation puts balance and mental health above power and money. They want leaders who understand their values and needs, and who support their professional and personal goals.

Commitment to the organization

When there is strong leadership in an organization, the staff is generally more committed to the company. They strive to help the organization achieve its goals and develop more of a team mentality. They want to come up with strategies and a plan to support the company’s mission, purpose, and values. When a leader uses the lead by example leadership style and works alongside her team, she inspires others to do the same.

The old-normal is unlikely to ever return. But there is every reason to focus on being the best leader as new patterns of work continue to evolve, by becoming a servant leader who, per the Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership, “shares power, puts the needs of others first and helps people develop and perform as highly as possible.”

Meloney Graham is a seasoned leader in the technology industry. Ms. Graham has received numerous awards including Stevie awards for International Businesswoman of the year in 2018 and Team of the year in 2019. She is currently the Global Group Vice President for Rimini Street overseeing teams in India, Brazil, Europe, Americas, Canada, Israel, and Australia. She has 35 years of experience specializing in the areas of finance, human resources, global leadership, and operations. Ms. Graham has overseen operations in over 45 countries. She travels the world working with employees, clients, and business leaders. Her passion is being a servant leader who spends time investing in the next generation of leaders around the world. 

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