The majority of bosses have found themselves on the back foot when it comes to transitioning from managers to leaders, says Barbara Parker, founder and Chairperson of Bio-Mastery for Business.

“The definition of a manager has undergone vast change in the past decade and is continuing to evolve. Gone are the days of style over substance.”

The rapid and relentless process of change in Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) economies demand fast, flawless responses from individuals and teams if companies are to survive and thrive. The traditional model of a ‘boss’ simply does not deliver.

According to entrepreneur and author, Glenn Llopis: “Companies that don’t snap out of their complacency with regards to transitioning their managers to leaders will fail.”

The restructuring of the manager’s role has seen the administrative responsibilities given to individuals with strong organising skills and the people management responsibilities given to individuals who can effectively harness the energy, commitment and ‘followship’ of people in the workplace.

Parker says the skill of followship is as critical in the 4IR environment as is leadership. In fact, effective leadership does not exist without efficient followship. “Followship is the willingness of people to seamlessly execute a leader’s directives without reservation and occurs only where people have a trusting relationship with the leader.

“Such willingness to act with trust and without reservation is critical to the 4IR environment where the need to ‘act now and clarify later’ is a core component of the rapid response process. Leadership-followship skills are strongly evident between staff in emergency response units such as hospitals and fire departments,” she adds.

Resilience has been identified as the core skill of successful business and military leaders. Resilience is defined as ‘the mental and emotional ability to cope with a crisis and to return to a pre-crisis status quickly’. (de Terte & Stephens, 2014).

According to Robertson, Cooper, Cary, Sarkar, Mustafa; Curran and Thomas (2015), “A resilient person uses mental processes and behaviours to develop personal skills and abilities to both survive and thrive in stressful situations”.

There are several defining characteristics of resilient people that underpin their coping skills. Resilient people are:

• Emotionally intelligent
• Calm and rational
• Positive and optimistic, even in periods of crises
• In control of the world around them
• Committed to their own and others’ growth and development
• Confident enough to be authentically themselves
• Genuine in their interpersonal relations
• Able to motivate and inspire themselves and, in so doing, inspire and motivate others
• Not inclined to hold grudges
• Honour bound when they give their word
• Not threatened by change and embrace change as part of life
• Survivors, not victims, and not inclined towards self-pity
• Not ego-bound and don’t get caught up in the small things
• Inclined to show great physical and moral courage

Can’t fake it until you make it
Parker says the necessary shift from managers to leaders is as a result of the demands of emerging high-tech economies, which require fast and flawless responses from everyone within an organisation, with little room for error.

“The risk is too high for managers to ‘fake it until they make it’. In the past, staff incompetence could be countered or absorbed by the competence of others, but according to Editorial Director of Training Industry Inc, Michelle Eggleston Schwartz (2019), this luxury does not exist today.

“Schwartz says there has always been risk to faking. She uses the example of a surgeon about to perform high-risk surgery, who lacks the essential skills to do the job, but has an inflated sense of confidence in his ability to be successful.

“Although this is an extreme example, Schwartz says it showcases the slippery slope of faking competence and ability,” says Parker.

Investing in leadership
According to Parker, companies must work to develop a robust plan to train leaders, starting with a clear definition of what a leader is – and is not.

“Leaders can set the tone of the entire organisation and can be a source of improved retention, heightened engagement and ultimately a competitive edge for their organisation,” she concludes.