The 5 Management Skills Every 21st Century Manager Needs
Boy, has the world changed a lot in recent years. The way businesses operate, hire and communicate has transformed almost beyond recognition.

It’s partly thanks to digital technologies, which have streamlined and connected everything. It’s partly the world getting smaller, with business and hiring becoming increasingly globalised. The current generation of employees is different too – just try Googling ‘millennials are ruining...’ and see what you get!

We call the managers and companies who’ve embraced these changes ‘disruptors’. They’re using all this new-world stuff to ‘disrupt’ the order of things. Start-ups – or should that be upstarts? – in every sector are innovating and outperforming the old guard.

For better or worse, Uber has changed the taxi business. Airbnb has changed travel. Spotify has changed music. And these businesses look completely different to anything we had as recently as 10 years ago.

For an old school manager, it’s tough.

How do you fit into a 21st Century company with traditional methods that just aren’t compatible with modern teams, systems and employee expectations?

The answer is just as you’d expect: adapt or fail.

Let me just say now though, maybe you're not an old manager. Maybe you're still young and hoping to go into management. What I cover below will be just as valuable to you, as you seek to know what makes a good modern manager.

So, it’s time to adapt, if you're an old school manager, or time to learn if hoping to go into management. Here are 5 management skills every 21st Century manager needs. Learn them and prepare to thrive in today’s workplaces.

1. Adapt hiring techniques for today’s workforce

As an old-school manager, you probably remember the days when job interviews were one-way traffic. You held the power, and it was all about grilling the candidate on how they could fit your company.

But today’s top talent can easily access international opportunities, contract for themselves online, and learn what it’s really like to work for you through services like Glassdoor. Interviews therefore need to be a 2-way process, where you answer as much as you ask.

Candidates also reveal a lot about themselves in online profiles, which can really streamline your sifting process before you even start interviewing.

Be ready to:
  • Vet applicants’ social media profiles – Look for discrepancies between what they say on LinkedIn, for example, and their CV. And use their social media posts to assess their real values and personality.
  • Use digital media – Video conferencing can facilitate initial interviews with candidates in other countries, saving travel and venue expenses. Get the right digital infrastructure in place.
  • Be more interactive – Try unusual questions the candidate won’t have rehearsed, to get insight into what they’re really like. And use interactive assessment techniques, like problem-solving tasks and personality tests, to learn what they’d be like in the job.

2. Take on 21st Century leadership qualities

As an old-school manager, you may see yourself as the boss at the top of your tree. Your role is to hold authority, enforce the company rules and values.

That's fine, but the most successful 21st Century leaders also see humility as a key part of their make-up.

As Amazon boss Steve Bezos put it:

“You need the humility to remind yourself that you’ve got to get better at everything you do. I don’t know about you, but I’m never done growing my company or myself.”

Humility is therefore not about being weak or admitting your failings. It’s about always striving to be the best you can be, so that you can lead your team by example.

When things go wrong – a failed project, or a dip in team morale, for example – the ‘humble’ 21st Century manager doesn’t bury his or her head in the sand. You accept responsibility, learn from it, and do better next time.

That's the kind of humility that breeds continuous improvement and success.

Now, this means adopting a new vocabulary. Showing humility, and even the way that you ask for things to be done, would use different wording to how an old school manager would have said things in the past. Different leadership styles requires different communication strategies.

3. Make your vision clear and work towards it

In business, there are two kinds of managers.

There’s the traditional, reactive kind. They only see the tasks in front of them, and they spend their days solving small problems and maintaining the current way of doing things. (If that’s you, it’s time to change.)

Then there’s the successful, visionary kind:
  • They have a vision of how things could be if everyone works to their full potential
  • They're passionate
  • They act confident, even when they're not
  • They get their team excited about this vision, boosting morale and pulling everyone together
  • They create a strategic plan to achieve their vision, continuously improving performance, and don't let others sway them fromtheir point of view

21st Century managers need this second approach because business is so much more competitive and fast-changing than in the past.

Define your vision – or work out how your team can contribute to the company’s vision – and get your team on board.

4. Make strengths, not weaknesses, your focus

Efficiency and productivity are top watchwords for every business today. It’s largely thanks to the digital revolution, where automation and cost-reduction are key profit drivers. Everyone wants more from a smaller budget.

As a manager, you therefore need your whole team firing on all cylinders. And the way to achieve that is by making sure everyone is playing to their strengths.

So, if discipline and employee weakness are still the focus of your people management methods, stop.

Start focusing on your team’s strengths instead:
  • Get to know your employees’ individual strengths and use them. If someone shows a talent for design, nurture that talent so your company can benefit.
  • Recognise and reward employee strengths. Employees who feel recognised and valued are happier and work harder.
  • Know your own strengths and delegate tasks you’re less good at. You’ll be a more effective manager.

5. Embrace digital

For many old-school managers, digital technologies can seem a vast ocean of complex tools that are too difficult to learn.

If you’re in that boat, remember this. You don’t have to know it all – just learn the tools you need to get results.

You can start with one useful digital tool – something to help you improve your networking, for example – and build from there. You’ll find all web apps work pretty much the same way, and once you’ve learned one and you can use them all.

As a manager, digital can help you with recruiting, networking, marketing, accounts and payroll, project and team management, and so much more. You can start small and build your way up to a full digital transformation.

Feeling like a new manager?

So, there we have it. Management has changed, but not beyond all recognition.

Updating your skills is largely about reviewing your approach and trying out some modern business tools and hiring techniques – most of which you’ll find fun and interesting.

Whether you’re looking for a new management job, a promotion, or just want to improve your management style, we wish you the best.

And if you have any useful tips or experiences of your own, please share them in the comments!