Leadership Today — It Takes an Entirely New and Flexible Mindset

Ray, you deserve a “D‑” for your performance today. You rambled for 50 minutes. It was obvious to all of us that you did not prepare at all because there is no way you could have and been that disorganized at the outset if you had prepared. We told you this prospect has been identified as a “must-win” … today was really bad … we can’t let this happen again.”

Wow, I thought as I read this story. Talk about feedback. Not only that, but the Ray in question is the company’s CEO.

A recipe for dismissal?

How many of you would write this type of note to your boss, let alone the CEO of your company?

Are you now wondering how the CEO reacted? Did he call out this underling and give him a piece of his mind?Did he start the wheels rolling to have this person fired?

No, the CEO responded by thinking about his performance. He asked for more feedback. He asked everyone who attended that meeting to give him a grade on a scale of A to F.

On top of that, he emailed that comment to the entire company so that everyone could learn from that exchange. In other words, my favorite saying is, “Someone is always watching your performance.”

The name of this company is Bridgewater and the founding CEO is Ray Dalio. In 2010, the company’s returns exceeded the combined profits of Google, eBay, Yahoo, and Amazon.

Group think not allowed

His mantra is that “no one has the right to hold a critical opinion without speaking up about it.” He disdains group think and is known for refusing to make decisions based on hierarchy.

These techniques have created an environment that allows what is called an idea meritocracy, where all perspectives are heard and the best argument wins. Regardless of who you are, your voice counts and he wants you to be heard.

While we have all heard of new techniques for managing people, one thing that is certain is that there is new type of leader in our midst.  his new leader is not afraid to tinker with the Industrial Age managerial mindset.

I, for one, admire these type of people so much because they are not tied to the old concept of management. These new leaders are creating their own framework from their own experiences, and not from leadership group think.

Leadership that can’t be found in a course

This level of thinking can’t be taught in some offsite or leadership course. A real leader is authentic and does not get their direction from some leadership summit or book.

As we look to mature and grow as leaders we must never submerge our true feelings and instincts. I had a manager tell me early in my career to “never let your true self shine through.” That has always been an anchor point in my ability to manage people.

Leaders must take stock of their attitude, approach, leadership style, and identity. They need to develop ways to improve their performance for the betterment of the employees and the organizations they serve.

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This self-realization process begins by accepting the fact that our leadership mindset may need to change or adjust. This can be reviewed through our past experiences, missed opportunities, and the business trends that demand it. In other words, we are all working in a state of flux.

This change may require us to sever ourselves from old behaviors and habits that may have worked in years past, and the reason is that our workforce is changing. With that being said, your style may need to adjust. This may require stepping out of our comfort zone to try new things.

Comfort zone violated

This coming out of the zone will require you to look at the manner in which you engage people, approach situations, make decisions, and evaluate opportunities. It’s about changing unproductive behaviors and throwing ego out the door.

This CEO’s ego was not even a thought as he challenged his people to think differently.

As a leader in today’s climate, it’s not about waiting for your business, clients, or the marketplace to shape your mindset, but rather, about being acutely aware of the dynamics around you.

This process of mindset adjustment is not a nice thing to have, it is “must” have.

How do we connect with your people? How do we connect with our organization? Everything should be on the table.

We can no longer manage people the way that we may have been managed in the past. The filter for managers should not be driven by skill set, but by the ability to connect and motivate people.

You will be doing yourself and your organization a favor by living by this statement.

Ron Thomas is Managing Director, Strategy Focused Group DWC LLC, based in Dubai. He is also a senior faculty member and representative of the Human Capital Institute covering the MENA/Asia Pacific region.

He was formerly CEO of Great Place to Work-Gulf and former CHRO based in Riyadh. He holds certifications from the Human Capital Institute as Global Human Capital Strategist, Master Human Capital Strategist, and Strategic Workforce Planner.

He's been cited by CIPD as one of the top 5 HR Thinkers in the Middle East. He received the Outstanding Leadership Award for Global HR Excellence at the World Human Resources Development Congress in Mumbai, and was named as one of the 50 Most Talented Global HR Leaders in Asia

Ron's prior roles included senior HR positions with Xerox HR services, IBM, and Martha Stewart Living.

Board memberships include the Harvard Business Review Advisory Council, McKinsey Quarterly's Executive Online Panel, and HCI's Expert Advisory Council on Talent Management Strategy.

His work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Inc. Magazine, Workforce Management and numerous international HR magazines covering Africa, India and the Middle East.