The societal impact of good management and leadership

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Last month I provided a glimpse into the future of AIM when I offered a brief outline of the broad areas of policy that your Membership organisation will begin to pursue to take us down the road towards our vision of better mangers, better leaders for a better society. 

This month, Netflix – the US-based content streaming company announced that its employees – both male and female - are eligible for ‘unlimited’ (up to 12-months) parental leave on full pay and benefits on the birth of a child.

Announcing one of the most generous parental leave policies anywhere in the world, Netflix’s Chief Talent Officer, Tawni Cranz said that, "Netflix's continued success hinges on us competing for and keeping the most talented individuals in their field. Experience shows people perform better at work when they're not worrying about home." As the announcement was made, Netflix’s stock price hit $121 – a new high and a rise of almost 8%.

As I have travelled around Australia for the recent Meet the Membership events (formerly called Meet the CEO!) there is no doubt that one of the things that has really resonated is the idea that sound management and leadership practice has a significant impact outside of the workplace.

The societal impact of good management and leadership is one of our core policy platforms because we believe that AIM has an important role to play in this area.

This policy area is about more than the simple concept of work / life balance, or about ensuring that you and your staff take the allotted annual leave each year. It’s about the things that we do as managers and leaders that attract and retain staff. And crucially it’s about recognising the impact that good management and leadership practice in the workplace has outside of the workplace.

In one sense this impact would seem to be obvious. Today’s workplace is no longer simply the office. Most of us do our ‘work’ in a variety of places because the workplace is no longer fixed. Smartphones, tablets, wireless networks and social media have all seen the workplace gradually leave the confines of the physical office and extend into the home, the coffee shop, the train and the ferry. Even planes now offer wireless connectivity and allow us to fiddle with our phones midair. The old concept of work / life balance was based on the premise that work and life were separate and distinct, and that the role of the good leader was to ensure that they were somehow nicely ‘balanced’.

Work and ‘life’ have become increasingly integrated, intertwined and indistinguishable. And because of this, our own impact as good managers and leaders is now potentially far more significant.

Issues that were once easily (although no doubt incorrectly) defined as being non-work issues are now much more complex. Take mental health, for example. Back ‘in the day’, when work happened mainly at work, it was much easier for issues around mental health to be attributed to things ‘out there’, in society. Work was work and the complexities of life – family, relationships and everything else – were largely outside the scope of the workplace, and of the company, the manager and the leader. This is no longer the case. Mental health issues are now recognised as a significant issue both in the workplace and stemming from the workplace.

The role of a leader in today’s workplace is complex precisely because the workplace has become increasingly entwined with that thing called life.

Perhaps a perfect illustration of the issue is this; I’m writing this article on my tablet at 10pm. At home. I’m connected to my home WIFI and the TV is on. We’re watching Orange is the New Black. On Netflix.

I wonder if the Netflix employee who programmed the show is currently on 12-months parental leave?