Millennials and members of Generation Z join the workforce seeking transparency, inclusivity and feedback from leadership.
Intentional leaders provide a sense of stability for employees at a time when companies are ushering in new generations and managing during a crisis, according to Carla Harris, vice chairman of wealth management and senior client advisor at Morgan Stanley, at a Gartner IT Symposium/Xpo Americas keynote on Wednesday.
For old-school execs, effective management of the next generation relies on crafting an intentional leadership style to build relationships in the workplace.
"If you are a boomer like me or an older [Generation] X-er, you certainly didn't get a lot of feedback along your career journey," Harris said. "You were definitely told, 'keep your head down, work really hard, and if you don't get fired you know you're doing okay.' That kind of leadership will never do in today's environment."
Harris outlined eight "pearls" of becoming an intentional leader, but with a qualifier — it relies on a foundation of fearlessness. "The strand that holds all of these pearls together is courage," said Harris. Each step of her guide toward intentional leadership depends on that base — and an expectation to win.
1. Bring your authentic self to work
Masking the unique qualities you bring to the workplace undermines the value proposition a company saw in you at time of hire, Harris said. Showing visibility, transparency and empathy demonstrates to employees the humanity behind a leader to strengthen the relationship.
Because of the uncertainty following crisis, fostering authentic connections establishes trust.
"When you bring your authentic self into the environment, people trust you, and trust is at the heart of any successful relationship," according to Harris.
2. Build trust
With authenticity on your side, building trust helps leaders bring new ideas to the table as confidence in your abilities grows among the team, Harris said.
Trust relies on following through and consistently delivering. This generates "currency" to be reinvested into the relationship to build a strong connection, according to Harris. To show customers and colleagues the team's reliability, Harris offers them ways to help before ever asking for anything in return.
3. Worry about creating clarity instead of about being wrong
The workforce doesn't expect leadership to predict the future, but creating clarity about what success looks like provides employees with marked and measured goals.
Even if a project changes direction, creating clarity along the way and adapting to the changing circumstances helps the team become more flexible to ultimately foster innovation, according to Harris.
"Don't worry about being wrong. If you start on the journey and you see that it is the wrong path, you simply take the learning of that destination where you stop and let it impact your next try," Harris said.
4. Develop leadership all around you
Good leaders know just because they can do all the work, doesn't mean they should, Harris said. The journey to becoming a leader often involves being a powerful contributor to the team, but it's time to leave that behind for others as you work your way through the ranks.
"You should be disproportionately focused on creating other leaders because that is how you amplify your impact in the organization," according to Harris.
5. Diversity doesn't just happen
Diversity breeds innovation, Harris said. Bringing more voices to the table amplifies the spread of ideas and elevates what's possible.
Intentionally creating diversity in the workforce brings together employees from different backgrounds to arrive at the innovative idea with the potential to grow your business, Harris said.
6. Innovate — and reward failure
To teach teams how to innovate, leadership must first teach them how to fail, Harris said. Even when failure comes with negative consequences, a constructive and productive reaction encourages teams to keep trying.
Teams uncomfortable with failure will never reach far enough to truly innovate, according to Harris.
7. Include everybody in the conversation
Admit you're not the smartest person in the room and solicit colleagues by name to join the conversation, Harris said. Including everyone in the conversation helps each employee feel seen and heard as valuable members of the team invested in the project.
8. Your voice is your power
Powerful, impactful leaders exercise their voices, Harris said. Willingness to call out what's wrong and praise what's going well builds trust among the team, especially when times may be tough for the company.
"When you submerge your voice, that's when you become irrelevant," said Harris.