Modern Leadership

What Does It Mean to be a Modern Leader?

Lynsey May Sutherland
Lynsey Sutherland
July 26, 2023
5 min read

With the rise in globalisation and the technology that’s making it possible, today’s workplace is very different to the one of the past. To be a high-performing leader in a changing world, you have to be able to adapt and embrace modern trends. 

How is modern leadership different from traditional?

Back in the day, you might expect to be solely led from the top down. Leaders were often distant figures, either benevolent or draconian. Employees could expect them to be shut in a private office or jetting around all the time, rarely stopping to get to know their teams. 

Modern leadership is a very different thing. Today’s leaders tend to be much more hands-on, and the best ones make it their mission to help their employees feel connected, engaged and filled with purpose. 

Why strive to be a modern leader?

Whether you like it or not, who you are as a leader influences your organisational culture. That means that if you want to be flexible and adaptable as a company, it’s worth making a shift in management style.

It can be difficult to work against old habits or ways of thinking, but the benefits of modern leadership are significant.

It can drive engagement 

Despite common knowledge that engaged employees are more motivated, committed and satisfied, Gallup reveals that only 23% of employees around the world felt actively engaged. And that’s a record high. Modern leadership creates a space where engagement can thrive. 

Modern Leader

Employees prefer it 

One of the best things about modern leadership is the fact that employees prefer it. Unfortunately, despite the fact that O.C Tanner found that employees crave modern leadership, only 17% of leaders exhibit those mindsets and behaviours.  

What are the principles of modern leadership?

The main principles of modern leadership centre around creating the kind of environment where people can thrive and achieve their best. 


Being open to new ideas and accepting that the traditional way of doing things isn’t always the best is one of the most important principles. This willingness to let ideas in and allowing space to innovate can transform practices. 


Without respect for every individual and their potential, now modern leader would be able to thrive. In the workplace, respect should be mutual and it is the perfect guiding principle for ensuring a democratic approach to growth. 


A great deal of trust is needed. Employees need to know that their leaders will have their back, while leaders need to trust in the abilities and talent so their team. 

Characteristics of a modern leader

Adopting the characteristics of a modern leader can help create a more dynamic and democratic workplace. To develop a modern style, you can:

Focus on collaboration 

The ability to collaborate successfully is key to fostering a high-performing team. When everyone is pulling their weight and working together, it’s possible to achieve even more than they would as individuals. 

Collaboration creates cohesion and makes it easier to handle day-to-day challenges. It also provides the kind of solid foundation that paves the way for innovation and creativity.

Be open to change

One of the biggest differences between traditional and modern leadership is found in the attitude towards change. While it may be tempting to rely on old ways of doing things, being open to big ideas or alternative processes creates endless opportunities. 

Embracing curiosity and the willingness to experiment allows you to set and attain new goals. It also makes your organisation more adaptable and better equipped to deal with an ever-changing environment.  

Empower your employees

While a traditional leader may prefer a more authoritarian approach, modern leaders see the value in encouraging their employees to be the best they can. This means that rather than controlling them, they offer them the responsibility and freedom to make their own choices and mistakes. 

Empowering your employees not only leaves them feeling more engaged and motivated, it can also cut down on unnecessary bureaucracy – saving everyone time and energy and increasing productivity along the way. 

Commit to learning and growth

As a leader, you’re no doubt always looking for ways to improve your skills and knowledge – and you should want the same for your team, too. Providing a pathway to employee development not only helps you retain qualified candidates, it helps boost your talent pool. 

Upskilling your employees through training, guidance or mentorship will give your organisation a competitive advantage while also improving your employee value proposition, resulting in higher satisfaction levels and making your organisation a more desirable place to work. 

Pay attention to results

To know how well your leadership style is working, you need to also be great at paying attention to the data. Modern leaders are open to experimenting rather than sticking to the status quo and this is one of their greatest strengths, however, it’s essential to keep an eye on the reality.

In addition to keeping an eye on the figures, be sure to understand how your team feels. An employee engagement survey is very useful in finding out how well certain initiatives are working for your team, as are regular check ins and meetings. 

Reward and recognise effort

While a traditional leadership style may have a focus on rewarding certain milestones, the modern way is to also recognise the effort an employee puts in. After all, ZipDo found that 79% of employees tender their resignations primarily because they feel unappreciated.

There’s still plenty of value in celebrating length of service or hitting particular company goals, but you can improve the experience even further by always rewarding and recognising the day-to-day wins and improvements employees make. Lead with respect rather than authority and your employees are far more likely to thrive. 

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Mo is an employee recognition and engagement platform that can help leaders improve collaboration and morale, reduce employee churn and drive change. 

Our platform creates a vibrant culture by developing team habits, encouraging people to celebrate success, recognise results and appreciate colleagues. Your complete toolkit for connecting and motivating teams in the new world of work. Book a demo with our team today.

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