Steve Flinders – Leaders of the future

I’ve just spent two weeks doing some leadership training with a group of 20-something bank employees from Germany. I had thought they might be more interested in partying than learning, but on the first morning, they all turned up before nine. “We are German,” they explained.

TEXT & PHOTO: STEVE FLINDERS

They were a joy to work with. Courteous, good-humoured and attentive, I was also impressed by how much better they performed in the training than a lot of managers who are 20 years older.

I premise leadership development work on the basic principle that good managers should know about themselves. I use the Johari Window to show that we can learn more about ourselves by getting feedback from others on how they see us.

The objective of feedback is to improve performance. Older managers can find giving and receiving feedback difficult, but being open, positive and constructive came quite naturally to most of these young Germans and they were quickly able to establish a feedback culture within the group.

Most of them are not yet managers and we did some work on influencing – important in managing peers and clients, and also your boss. Many older managers tend to think that influencing means telling rather than asking, but the Germans intuitively understood the maxim of Tom Daschle, a former US Senate majority leader, that “The best way to persuade is with your ears”.

Most of all, they took time to really reflect on the work we were doing. Older managers tend not to. Extroverts learnt from introverts about how far they can dominate discussion without realising it. They all learnt how important it is to really listen to each other in order to solve difficult problems collectively.

I emerged from my two weeks feeling quite positive about their country passing into the hands of such as these. However, they will soon face challenges greater than any we have confronted since the Second World War. They will need vision and understanding to manage a rapid transition to a low-carbon economy, with all the radical upheaval which this will require for German industry and agriculture, and for the way we all eat, dress and travel.

They have the communication skills. I sincerely hope they will harness these to a massive determination to make life bearable for future generations.

Steve Flinders is a freelance trainer, writer and coach, based in Malta, who helps people develop their leadership and communication skills for working internationally: steveflind@aol.com

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Scan Magazine Ltd.’

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