A well-known company is ready for its IPO. In recent years, the globally active company has posted outstanding figures and the market is literally screaming for its coveted services. Therefore, it should be no surprise to anyone that the share price will skyrocket within a matter of hours and that some top managers will become multimillionaires overnight.
While management is busy popping corks and projecting how the market value is affecting their own salaries and financial status, discontent is rising among the employees. They are talking about how management is making itself rich. Their values clearly collide with those at the top. Many qualified professionals no longer want to give these latter-day feudal lords their obeisance and help a select few become millionaires.
The immediate consequence for the company is easy to predict. A study done by the Values Commission in the last year shows that around a quarter of corporate managers surveyed had changed employers because of ethical clashes. If more leaders mastered the art of "soft power" and subsequent communication, these defections could easily be prevented.
Change of scene: 18th century France, where Louis XVI was unsuccessful in his attempts to introduce state reforms aimed at equality for all. Due to the total loss of credibility of someone who had once been so powerful combined with fears of conspiracy among the nobility and foreign powers, the people's anger eventually reached a boil and culminated in the French Revolution. The functional power of the king and the aristocracy derived by virtue of their offices, position, and money became ineffective. There was an inevitable shift of power.
Today, are we standing before yet another decisive break comparable with these events from the past? I think so, as the brain power that determines the value of many companies in our knowledge-based society is drained off or the pressure builds like a storm to burn down these fortresses of latter-day feudalism. The all-powerful VPs and CEOs, the "Sun Kings" of today, are facing the threat of a sharp downfall. Yet management resolutely steers against it with its instruments of power. They try to seduce employees with bonus systems and generous gifts to make them dependant and reward them with promotions designed to keep them loyal.
Those who don't play along and think outside the box are quickly made aware of the subtle forms of power by relocations or promotions to meaningless positions, withholding information, avoiding clarification, or assigning boring tasks, all designed to nip any resistance in the bud. The bloodletting has already begun: valuable professionals are leaving companies. This is a modern revolution with equally disastrous results!
At the same time, demographic change is bringing new challenges. In some industries, there is a tremendous state of emergency when it comes to finding young talent. That's why it's all the more important to attract the best people for one's company and, even more importantly, to retain them. Even here, there is a huge need for "soft power" as the much-cited "war for talent" has become a "war for people."
In the future, employees will need to be inspired and their hearts won over so that they remain enthusiastic even in the face of adverse circumstances. That's the only way companies will be able to achieve results in the long term. However, true power is only practised by that leader who can move the hearts of others regardless of hierarchical positions, special statuses, or special relationships with influential people, and can make use of this as an incentive to achieve common goals. The question of power is no longer about "top" and "bottom." Rather, it is more about whether leaders are able to exercise power as equals.
The "look inward" is crucial for the successful leader in the 21st century. Leaders who exercise soft power spare a little time every day for this one key activity: self-reflection.
Andreas Dudàs. Swiss, visionary entrepreneur, mentor, motivational speaker, and expert on authentic leadership. More than 20 years experience in top executive positions in over 25 countries. Founder of the BE SHiRO Group in Switzerland and India, dedicated to empower individuals and organizations to achieve greatness through authenticity. Author of “Do you dare to be yourself? Developing power in life and leadership through authenticity." Learn more about Andreas at www.andreasdudas.com/book.
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