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Old Men, Leadership Styles, and the Shifting Work Environment

Hey you, the 80s called and they want their stuffy ties back!


The dynamics of the modern workforce have undergone a dramatic transformation in recent years. Technological advancements, changing societal norms, and global events, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, have redefined the way we work. In the midst of this shift, there has been a growing debate surrounding the role of organizational leadership and their resistance to adopting remote work policies. I have a theory about what’s really happening here. Spoiler alert – I don’t buy for one second that remote work is the issue. I’ve managed remote teams for over ½ my career – lots of leaders have. That’s what international business is all about. Remote work is not the problem.


Don’t get your undies in a bunch; I realize there are exceptions and of course you’re one of the exceptions, but in general… It might be you!

So, what’s really going on that so many leaders who used to be great can’t hack it anymore and resort to blaming their teams and remote workstyle for their failings? Well, maybe it’s the age-old truth that everyone looks good when things are good, but BAM, things go south and that’s when the field gets separated out. Your top-notch experts can’t get it done? They’re experts in their field, they’ve been successful historically, they have been trustworthy and reliable in the past, what can it be? Realize, it might be you.

You’ve got to evolve.

The leadership styles of the past do not work anymore – they simply don’t. It’s a new generation driving the work today than it was 20 years ago; it’s new tech; it’s the aftermath of a global pandemic. Leaders need to adapt to the needs of a totally different workforce if they want to stay ahead and effectively lead world class teams. Because those world class teams, quite simply, aren’t going to put up with leaders who are living in the 80s.

Enter the old men

As the traditional heads of companies, the good old boys have undoubtedly brought valuable experience and expertise to their roles. However, some may struggle to embrace the changing work landscape and refuse to let go of conventional hierarchical control. But effective leadership is synonymous with adaptability. Leaders who fail to adapt their styles to evolving circumstances risk creating a gap between themselves and their workforce, especially as that workforce becomes more diverse and younger. This unwillingness (or perhaps arrogance or perhaps inability) to adapt can create a disconnect between leaders and their employees, especially with younger generations who have grown up in a digital era and are more comfortable with remote work and technological advancements.


This lack of shared perspective can lead to misunderstandings and hinder collaboration and creativity within the organization. And (ding-ding) this, not work location, is a bigger factor in low productivity and team failures.

Productivity can and does happen, even when you’re not in the room

One common misconception held by some leaders is that employees are less productive when working remotely. This assumption is simply not supported by evidence (feel free to comment where you have discovered evidence I didn't find... but read it first to confirm it's legit, because you know I will). The evidence suggests that remote work can empower employees by giving them autonomy over their schedules, allowing them to optimize their productivity during their most focused hours, and reducing the waste of windshield time. Moreover, without the distractions and time-consuming commutes associated with office work, employees can often complete tasks more efficiently.

Build bridges, not pits

It is essential to recognize that the goal is not to pit different generations and different work styles against each other but rather to bridge the gap between them. Older leaders have insights and experience that can be invaluable. But younger leaders and individual contributors bring fresh perspectives, tech-savviness and new energy to the table. By embracing their individual work styles with open-mindedness and actively seeking feedback and collaboration, leaders can create a culture of inclusivity, leading to a more successful and innovative environment. And, you guessed it, this can be done remotely or in person.

Life will drag you forward kicking and screaming; you may as well calm down and enjoy the ride.


To thrive in the current work environment, leaders need to be flexible and open to change. This involves fostering a culture of trust, where employees are empowered to work in a manner that suits them best, whether that be in the office or remotely.

Leadership by presence should give way to leadership by results, where the focus is on outcomes rather than hours spent at a desk.

The debate surrounding remote work and the resistance from some older leaders is not an indictment of their abilities or a failure of their employees. Instead, it reflects a need for leaders to adapt their leadership styles to the changing work environment. Embracing remote work, where appropriate, can lead to a more motivated and engaged workforce, ultimately benefiting the organization as a whole.

Leaders, regardless of age or gender, must be receptive to new ideas and perspectives and be willing to evolve alongside their workforce. They must recognize and be open to the fact that what works best for them may not be what works best for their employees and teams. By bridging the generation gap and fostering a culture of adaptability, companies can position themselves for success in the results and in recruitment.


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