A few weeks ago, I was asked to bring my experience as an HR Manager to a company that develops software solutions for manufacturing companies during a webinar on leadership.
Systems integrators like my company are experiencing a lot of organizational stress. The pandemic of the last two years has changed the way we all work, and because of the type of work we do, we should have felt that change less. Emergency remote work didn't surprise us, as we were already operating on our clients' facilities remotely, and our teams within our organization were based in different locations. Nevertheless, for us too, this long period of crisis has brought a series of changes and events that have stressed the organization of work.
In fact, “smart working” has among its cardinal principles working toward broad objectives and no longer according to a list of small to-dos to be ticked off. Obviously, this means that the first people to have to manage this major change were team leaders. They had to understand that the style of driving that had been effective and efficient up to this point absolutely had to be revised.
The leader of this moment understood that s/he had to be the ferryman of the group from a way of working in which control and execution prevailed, to one that instead exalted the autonomy and responsibility of people. The difficulty has been and remains great. At this point, the differences between the various generations emerged: in a company like ours, the average age is quite low and there are many gen Z technicians, digital natives, and experts in social communication, who are exposed daily to countless stresses and are enormously idealistic. They are young people who work to achieve personal goals but at the same time cannot ignore a sense of social responsibility that they strongly demand from the company they work for. Their millennial colleagues are more focused on their own goals and on the indispensable continuous improvement of work-life balance. And then there are those, like me, who are not digital natives at all, but digital immigrants: we have learned the hard way to adapt to a world that runs at breakneck speed, where learning is too fast for what we have been used to, but at the same time is much more superficial and merely pragmatic. This picture means that the leader must have characteristics that were unimaginable until recently.
A leader used to have to be an experienced person with the ability to coordinate and lead. Now this is no longer needed. The leader is certainly required to be an expert, but also to demonstrate this in the field by working hand in hand with Gen Z. S/he must have developed a particular sensitivity in understanding who is in front of him/her and adapt his/her leadership style to the group he is leading. He/she must be resilient to change by leading with confidence and strongly motivating people. He/she must know how to be understanding and welcoming and at the same time challenging, because there is no one who does not ask for training and personal as well as professional growth. they must not be afraid of innovation and change: perhaps this is the most complicated thing.
So, it is said that a generative leadership style is needed. The term generative made me make an immediate connection to what has always been considered a huge value at Autoware, namely the presence of different genders for the same role. This fosters the complementarity of approaches and the contamination of ideas that are the determining factors for innovation. The female figure is, partly due to cultural heritage and partly due to her intrinsic nature, normally more accustomed to a sense of belonging to a group, empathic listening, and emotional intelligence. Last but not least, she has the ability to change her communication style according to the interlocutor in front of her. This has given strength to the inclusion of two female project managers and three other female area managers.
Therefore, the leader necessarily becomes a mentor, the one who triggers the drive and desire for change, who, with his experience and sensitivity, recognizes talents and enhances them in the assignment of tasks, never forgetting to set challenging goals but commensurate with the strengths and weaknesses of the person or team. The objective of contributing to a positive and cohesive organizational climate, even, as in our case, with different generations, communication styles and ideals, is challenging for those who decide they want to lead their organization into the near future: and who knows what surprises it will present us with. Surely, we hope it will reserve a little more physical safety and consequent serenity of mind.
Monica Muraro is a Human Resources Manager at Autoware, certified members of the Control System Integrators Association (CSIA). For more information about Autoware, visit its profile on the Industrial Automation Exchange.