The first telephone I ever saw was not a smart phone, a flip phone, or even a rotary dial phone. The very first phone I ever saw was made out of wood, had a crank on one side, an earpiece hanging on the other, and a mouthpiece that looked like a trumpet.

That antique telephone was the only way to make a call in some parts of West Virginia when I was a boy, and it worked pretty well for its day.

Now those old phones are nothing but conversation pieces. They may have worked well at one time, but they’re obsolete now.

Leadership tools are a bit like any piece of technology. They have a limited lifespan. What worked well a decade ago may now be a waste of time.

Culture changes, expectations change, and good leaders know the difference between a vintage leadership tool and cutting edge technique. Here are four leadership tools that simply don’t work anymore—and four things to use in their place.

  1. Management by Decree

At one time it was possible to make decisions with your senior leaders, then announce them to the team and expect everyone to get in line. No more. Top-down leadership simply doesn’t work. People want—and demand—a voice in decision making.

Open your decision making process to input. Even if you don’t take the suggestions of your team, your clients, or the public, people will be more satisfied knowing they’ve been heard.

  1. Mass Communication

Newspaper ads and television commercials used to be the best way to get a message to everyone. That is no longer true. Fewer people read newspapers, and the television market is so fragmented that it’s impossible to create one message that will reach everyone.

Use relational networks to get your message out. If you haven’t discovered the power of social media, information sharing, and giving away content in attracting an audience, don’t waste another minute. The best advertising has always been word-of-mouth, and that’s both free and easier than ever to generate.

  1. Standing Meetings

By standing  I mean meetings that are regularly scheduled regardless of agenda. This is the Tuesday all-staff meeting that’s been going on for decades in your organization. Everybody takes an hour off work to listen to the same announcements as last week, even when there’s nothing important to decide or communicate.

Call meetings only for the purpose of making a decision, and then do your best to make them “standing” meetings—where everyone remains standing. The meeting will take less time and be far more productive.

  1. Fear As a Motivator

Being called on the carpet was once the most feared experience in business. Even worse was the threat of being singled out for poor performance in front of the team. Motivation by fear was once a powerful, if undesirable, tool.

That no longer works. Employees have more options than ever on where to work, and people will not stay in an environment where they are not respected. Substitute positive perks for negative motivators. Lead your team with compliments, praise, and highlighting the positive.

Times change, business culture changes, and leaders must change with them. What leadership techniques have you seen fall by the wayside, and what new tools have taken their place? I’d love to hear about it! Share your answer on Facebook or Twitter.


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