Are you a leader or a 20th-century manager living in the 21st century? (Part 1)


Amazon workers stage walkout over company’s climate impact, return-to-office mandate

That news article title caught my eye this morning. In it, it said, “A group of corporate Amazon workers upset about the company’s environmental impact, recent layoffs and a return-to-office mandate is planning a walkout at the company’s Seattle headquarters… more than 1,900 employees had pledged to walk out around the world… some plan to gather at the Amazon Spheres… others will participate remotely.” Also, “more than 20,000 workers signed a petition urging Amazon to reconsider the return-to-office mandate.”

In a February memo, Amazon CEO Andy Jassy said, “The company made its decision to return corporate employees to the office at least three days a week after observing what worked during the pandemic. Among other things, senior leadership watched how staff performed and talked to leaders at other companies. They concluded employees tended to be more engaged in person and collaborate more easily.”

In addition, Amazon spokesperson Brad Glasser said, “We’ve explained our thinking in different forums over the past few months and will continue to do so.”

Do CEOs, executives, and leaders of companies not realize our environments have changed? The world has become more complex and it changes faster than ever before. It is too slow to wait for top management to come up with a mandate so that the minions can follow. Especially for the knowledge workers, they are not mindless minions, they are the ones closest to the customers, and doing the work. They know better than top management how to best get their work done! Management and leadership have to change.

Don’t believe me? Let’s hear it from the 20,000 workers who signed the petition: “Amazon must return autonomy to its teams, who know their employees and customers best, to make the best decision on remote, in-person, or hybrid work, and to its employees to choose a team which enables them to work the way they work best.”

In my article, “What is a leader to do in times like these?”, I mentioned that 21st-century management needs to change out of 20th-century thinking. Management is no longer about telling the employees what to do and monitoring their progress like a hawk. It is about creating and maintaining an environment where employees feel safe and motivated to contribute to their fullest. People in management need to be leaders. Leadership is more than execution and productivity.

If you need to explain your thinking in different forums over a period of months to your employees, that’s an indication that you’re not a leader, but a 20th-century manager living in the 21st century. You will not prosper and attract the most talented people. Instead, you’ll see your best talents leave (even in times of economic downturn) and end up with a tarnished brand reputation.

Next week, I’ll give you more practical tips on how to be a leader in the 21st century, so stay tuned!

1 comment

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: