It is very important for organizations to follow the changing trends and methods of doing business in order to maintain their success and competitive edge. The main unit that makes up organizations are individuals. To continue to be successful, we need to understand the needs and demands of both these individuals, who are our employees, and our customers. For the effective implementation of the route and targets determined according to these needs, responsibilities of the organizational leaders are creating a great importance.
With ever-changing needs and demands, the term “leadership” appears to be a self-updating and self-renewing concept. Nowadays, the period of authoritarian and mechanical approaches for leadership are over. The leaders, who contribute to the world, create meaning and gather opinions from all levels of the organization structures, appear as effective leaders. Bill Gates, Stephen Hawking and Oprah Winfrey, who have left their mark in the field, have one thing in common which is to serve for a meaningful purpose. These individuals are socially aware, global citizens and “activist” leaders.
Paul Allen, who found Microsoft in 1975 with Bill Gates, conducted a study of great acclaim for endangered species. Collecting data by using his company, he counted African elephants one by one in 18 countries and found that they had decreased by 30% in 7 years. When this information exposed to the media, it created an effect that made possible to alter the laws in a country. China was responsible for 70% of the ivory trade and in 2017, the Country announced that they would ban all ivory trade. A single leader, with the help of technology, played an important role for the conservation of species. The scale of change that a single leader can create can now go beyond what we can imagine with opportunities such as big data and artificial intelligence.
In the 1970s, Muhammad Yunus used the micro-financing model for individuals and small businesses that had difficulty accessing financial services, enabling millions of people in Bangladesh, most of whom are women, to access finance. 65% of the individuals reached with this model are better off. With this example, the transformative potential of the financial sector was demonstrated.
Demanders of Change: Generation Y and Z
Generation Y took the leader position in the transformation of leadership with their natural inclination towards questioning the status quo. Thanks to social media, they are constantly in touch with the rest of the world and aware of what is going on throughout the world. Their connection with the world goes hand in hand with their awareness and ethical understanding. They are active citizens representing the generation born between 1980-2000. Currently, an approximate 35% of the workforce consists of this generation, which is predicted to become 75% by 2025. At the core of their understanding of leadership is to give credits to employees, acting based on the ethical standards and believing in common decision-making mechanisms. As consumers, they believe that companies have to be ethical and society oriented. 73% of these consumers are willing to pay a higher price when the product complies with sustainable approaches and ethical standards.
The generation Z, which represents the generation born in 2000 and beyond, will constitute 38% of the workforce and 40% of the total consumers as of next year. Expecting transparency from work life, they give importance to receiving feedback and they love to share. As being used to taking information visually, they see their career route as creative and changing, rather than a pre-determined, linear path. Organizations will have to adjust accordingly. According to a research carried for the 7th time this year for Harvard Business Review Turkey, the most important expectation of university students in Turkey from the organizations is the atmosphere of those organizations which enhance their ‘professional progress and education’. For the Z generation, who born in an era of smartphones, tablet computers and so on, consumption is more about access and subscription than ownership. Appealing to individual identities and their ethical concerns gain more importance. While production will have to find a balance between personalization and mass-scale, ethical production is increasingly becoming more important.
Demands for change in patterns of production and leadership lead organizations to rethink the ways in which horizontal hierarchy structures become more prominent. Instead of the ‘assembly’ thinking that is the understanding that parts come together and form a whole, organizations that are designed as ‘alive’ with a holistic view will be the organizations of the future.