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Over the past decade, we have witnessed a change in office culture and corporate structures. Technology companies like Facebook and Google have set the tone for relaxed, collaborative environments, providing employees with nap pods, massage therapists, and game rooms, the opposite of the 20th-century stiff corporate environment. With changes like these, it’s no surprise leadership styles have changed as well — most noticeably, the disruption of a typical hierarchical model.

Elon Musk once stated, “Communication should travel via the shortest path necessary to get the job done, not through the ‘chain of command.’ Any manager who attempts to enforce ‘chain of command’ communication will soon find themselves working elsewhere.” As an increasing number of millennials enter the workforce, companies encouraging the typical silo-style departments and hierarchical communication should rethink their leadership style. Adopt A Highway Maintenance Corporation® has come up with a list of 15 tips to help small businesses shift into twenty-first-century leadership!

  1. InspireA good leader is meant to inspire. They should elicit enthusiasm from their employees. An inspired employee will always put their best foot forward and result in high-quality work.
  2. Foster a “Yes” EnvironmentCan-do attitudes are crucial to the growth of businesses and people. Challenge your employees to do better. Do so by encouraging them to meet every challenge with an “I’ll try” instead of “I can’t” attitude. The way your team approaches challenges can have a huge impact on company morale and, ultimately, results. By fostering a “yes” environment, you will have an indirect impact on all aspects of the business.
  3. MotivateFind out what motivates your employees and leverage it in the office. If one of your employees is motivated to work because they like to be creative, try to implement that into their workload. Get to know them so you can motivate them properly. Not everyone values the same rewards.
  4. Know Your Team’s StrengthsKnow the limitations of your team’s capabilities. Know when to push them and when they genuinely aren’t capable of performing the task. Play up their strengths and help them develop their weaknesses.
  5. PassionBe passionate and inspire passion. Show them why their work matters and how they are a part of something bigger. Oprah Winfrey famously said, “Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you.” Having a team that is excited about their work yields greater results than a team focused on getting through the workday as quickly as possible.
  6. CollaborateEncourage collaboration- among departments and up the chain of command. The best ideas can often be improved upon when people feel they have the freedom to voice their opinion. Collaboration is always necessary for business development, growth, and innovation.
  7. CreateBoost creativity. Even if it isn’t something that is within your department’s responsibilities, ask for outside perspectives- sometimes an opinion from someone who is emotionally detached or unaware of the specifics ends up being most valuable. Google uses the “20% time” strategy to increase creativity among its employees. Essentially, the company allows employees to take one full workday to work on Google-related projects. The outcome of this scheme has proved hugely beneficial, with ideas like Gmail and Google Maps coming from “20% time” (Radulovic, 2018). While it may not be feasible for small businesses to implement something like this, it provides an invaluable lesson- when you increase creativity and remove limitations, the results are priceless!
  8. ChallengePeople want to be challenged- it makes them feel like they matter. Challenge your employees to go beyond the traditional limitations of their job. Encourage them to push the boundaries
  9. “Do As I Do” LeadershipLead by example. If you require prompt responses or speedy turnaround on assignments, make sure you are delivering this as well. There is nothing worse than a leader with a “do as I say, not as I do” attitude. Take responsibility for what you are asking of your team and lead them in a way that you would like to be led.
  10. RewardReward and acknowledge accomplishments- even if it’s a card or email expressing gratitude, it can go a long way. Recognize small accomplishments, as well as big ones. It’s important to continuously acknowledge efforts as well as results so you, as a leader, create an encouraging environment.
  11. CommunicateCommunication is crucial. Allow for the free flow of communication, per Elon Musk. Make sure your employees are communicating their opinions, current project lists, goals, and ideas.
  12. Develop TalentsA talented employee is a huge asset to a company. Develop talents within your team and encourage activities and seminars that will help them do so. Harness talent and utilize them for accomplishing business objectives.
  13. Set ExpectationsClearly communicate your expectations for each employee and have them communicate what they expect of you. Do so continuously so everyone is on the same page and don’t be afraid to alter expectations once you see what works for your team. Make sure the expectations you have are reasonable. People feel accomplished when they succeed at many little things, rather than having big expectations they feel they can never meet.
  14. Trust and Be TrustedPerhaps the most crucial element of leadership. Trust your team enough to delegate important tasks and work on developing their trust in you. As their leader show, you are there for them and you have their back. It is important for employees to feel they can confide in you and count on you.
  15. Be Bold and Encourage Bold ActionsEncourage bold ideas and bold actions. Encourage employees to think outside of the box. Think of your employees as brand ambassadors, the more freedom you give them to be themselves with their work, the better brand ambassador they will be.

While there may be a few people who are “natural born leaders,” leadership is always changing and most leadership is learned. Not only is it changing on a macro scale, it changes on a micro scale- as positions, responsibilities, and companies shift. What do you think makes for a good leader? Do you have any great experiences with a boss that changed your view of leadership? Share your ideas and experiences with us by commenting below!


Radulovic, P. (2018, May 11). How the ‘20% time’ rule led to Google’s most innovative products. Retrieved July 2, 2018, from