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Transcript: Have you reached your ‘best before’ date as a manager?

KARL MOORE – This is Karl Moore of the Desautels Faculty of Management at McGill University, talking management for The Globe and Mail. Today, I am delighted to speak to a colleague in Australia from the University of Queensland, Neal Ashkanasy.

Neal, when you are looking at the modern leadership approach, it is much more [about] listening, as you mentioned, and paying attention. Why is this more effective today than the old controlling style from 20 years ago?

NEAL ASHKANASY – I think these days, particularly as we become more affluent in general, and also as the generations move from Generation X into the Generation Internet, etc., I think people are more aware of their options, more aware that they don't have to take it. It was only a few years ago that people felt they were locked into jobs. These days, people, especially younger people, are more mobile, so there is a general consensus that people can become more independent, can express their own personality, and when leaders behave [in a controlling manner] like this, they will move on.

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So these leadership styles, which were pretty prevalent until recent times, I think are reaching their "use by" date. But there are always going to be people who are like this, and as senior managers, they need to be careful of people like this and make sure that somehow or other they temper their effects, because down the track this does have an effect on the well-being and productivity of employees.

KARL MOORE – Neal, Australia is going through a bit of a rougher patch economically after 20 years of great growth. Do you think that young people will be a little bit less demanding? And in a tougher economy, does that kind of calm things down so that we don't need this kind of modern management to the same degree?

NEAL ASHKANASY – Yes, well it's true that Australia did very well during the global financial crisis largely because of its mineral wealth, and it continues to do pretty well, but the circumstances are not as quite favourable as they were just a while ago, but that doesn't really change the fundamentals of what we are talking about here.

We are talking about a management style that looks towards the future of the organization. Maybe you can get high performance right now in the short term by being abusive. But what are the ultimate effects on the working life, on the motivation, etc., of the people that you are leading and supposed to be looking after their interests? In the longer term, it's going to be a cost.

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