A Labor Day Reflection on Leading in a World of Change


MP900382973Two articles published last week in the Wall Street Journal reminded me of the value of work and of leadership. Both articles alluded to the changes facing today’s workforce and the need for leadership to wend our way through these changes.

On August 31, 2013, Peggy Noonan wrote in a column titled, Work and the American Character:

“When you work you serve and take part. . . . There is pride and satisfaction in doing work well, in working with others and learning a discipline or a craft or an art. To work is to grow and to find out who you are.

. . . .

Work gives us purpose, stability, integration, shared mission.”

MP900321207How true. But how often do we think of the value of work to our spirits and our sense of self?

Noonan then acknowledges the changing workforce in her suggestion that

“What is needed now is a political leader on fire about all the possibilities, . . . someone with real passion about the idea of new businesses, new inventions, growth, productivity, breakthroughs and jobs, jobs, jobs.”

The need for creativity and innovation is both a cause of and a result of our changing workplace. And it isn’t just political leaders we need, but business and union leaders as well.

In an op-ed piece last week, Richard Pieper reminded us why modern labor unions were developed in the first place. See Richard S. Pieper, A Wish for Labor Day: Visionary Union Leaders, Wall Street Journal, August 30, 2013.

“While employers’ unwillingness in the 1800s to recognize the necessity of providing basic benefits for workers remains a shameful stain, unions deserve all the credit for guaranteeing fair compensation, health care and pensions for workers.”

MP900321214Pieper then contends that union membership is declining in the 21st century because most union leaders are still focused on improving wages, benefits, and job security, rather than on designing the workplace for the challenges ahead.

Preparing workers for the ever-increasing changeability of the workplace is a crucial leadership issue for both union and corporate executives. Technological developments flay whole industries with the click of a button. Government regulations at home and abroad can change expectations in what sometimes seem like capricious flukes.

Businesses – and by extension their employees – must adapt to these developments. Those that cannot adapt will not survive. Only strong leadership can make change happen.

MP900321219Here are a few articles with suggestions on how to manage change:

Most of these articles focus on the need for communication, which is, after all, the first job of leadership. And the last.

When have you seen leaders rising to help the workforce adapt to change?

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Filed under Human Resources, Leadership, Management, Politics, Workplace

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