The Evolution of Leadership: From Command & Control to Trust & Motivation

Leadership has been a crucial element in the success of both individuals and organizations for centuries. From the earliest days of command and control, leadership has evolved to become a much more interactive and collaborative approach. The transition from Command & Control to Trust & Motivation represents a significant shift in leadership style that has gained prominence in recent years. In the past, leaders relied heavily on the Command & Control approach, characterized by a top-down flow, where decisions were made by the leader and directives were handed down to employees. However, this approach often resulted in a lack of employee engagement and motivation, leading to decreased employee satisfaction and higher rates of employee turnover. In contrast, Trust & Motivation leadership style emphasizes building trust with employees, which leads to higher levels of employee engagement, motivation, efficiency, and retention. This shift towards a more empowering and human-centered leadership style puts people first and has a highly positive impact on organizational efficiency, employee satisfaction, and lower rates of employee turnover and absenteeism. Today’s employees want a rewarding career that enables them to build their skills and pursue their goals and leadership must take this info consideration to secure their retention.

Benefits of Leading with a Focus on Building Trust and Motivation

Leadership in actual terms can be defined as an act of guiding a team or group of people to a certain goal, as Dr. Josh Axe from put it as “Leadership is an action in which one person guides those around them to move from one point to another”. It can also be interpreted as the act of influencing others to complete a task or to do good. Both meanings are dependent on the context and application of leadership within a certain domain.  So how best can leaders secure loyal followers and high performance?

The evolution of leadership has brought several benefits to organizations and individuals. Today’s successful leaders recognize the importance of building trust with their team and creating a positive work environment that fosters collaboration, open communication, and teamwork. This approach to leadership leads to higher productivity, efficiency, and better outcomes for the organization. Leadership plays a critical role in shaping the culture and environment of a business. A strong leader can create a positive and empowering work culture that encourages employees to collaborate, innovate, and perform at their best. On the other hand, poor leadership can have serious consequences, such as decreased productivity, increased absenteeism, and low morale among employees. Leaders who prioritize trust, motivation, and open communication can create a culture of accountability, transparency, and continuous improvement, leading to a more collaborative, supportive, and effective work environment. Ultimately, the impact of leadership on business culture cannot be overstated, and strong leaders are essential to creating a thriving and successful organization.

Trust & Motivation are critical to help employees perform at their best. As they grow and achieve desired results their pride and job satisfaction are increased, turnover rates are lowered and they see more opportunity and a stronger future with the organization. They feel more confident in their role and abilities rather than performing in lieu of force or fear or under threat of repercussions or termination under Command & Control strategies.

In trust & motivational strategies, a leader ensures his/her employees feel the highest levels of employee or personal satisfaction. This is better explained by Emma Seppala & Kim Cameron in an article as: 

“In studies by the Queens School of Business and by the Gallup Organization, disengaged workers had 37% higher absenteeism, 49% more accidents, and 60% more errors and defects. In organizations with low employee engagement scores, they experienced 18% lower productivity, 16% lower profitability, 37% lower job growth, and 65% lower share price over time.”

How to Help Leaders Transition to Leadership Styles that Meet the Needs of Todays Workforce

Leadership has a profound impact on people, influencing their thoughts, feelings, and behaviours in a variety of ways. A good leader can create a positive work environment, where employees feel valued, supported, and motivated to perform at their best. When people feel recognized for their contributions and have clear expectations for their role, they are more likely to feel engaged and satisfied with their work. On the other hand, poor leadership can lead to low morale, lack of trust, high levels of stress, and increased employee turnover. 

Building strong relationships, supporting employee needs and encouraging collaboration is crucial to the success of any organization, and leaders must develop effective strategies to achieve these goals. One of the most effective ways to build relationships is through open communication and active listening, which allows leaders to understand the needs and concerns of their team members. Leaders should also prioritize regular team-building activities, such as group outings or team-building exercises, to build a sense of camaraderie and promote collaboration. Additionally, it is essential to provide opportunities for employees to contribute to decision-making processes, allowing them to feel valued and invested in the organization’s success. Effective delegation and empowerment also promote collaboration and create a sense of shared ownership and responsibility among team members. Finally, leaders should establish clear goals, roles, and expectations for each team member, ensuring that everyone is working towards a common objective. By implementing these strategies, leaders can build strong relationships and cultivate stronger employee retention, leading to a more productive, engaged, and successful organization.

The Managers Role

Managers play a crucial role in creating an environment of trust and motivation in the workplace. They are literally the face of the company and must prioritize building positive relationships and supporting employees in their desire for a rewarding work experience. This can be achieved with open communication, active listening, and caring. They should provide regular feedback to their employees and offer guidance and support when necessary. Additionally, managers must promote a positive work culture by modeling respectful and collaborative behavior and addressing conflicts and issues promptly and fairly. This cultivates a sense of shared ownership and responsibility, which leads to higher levels of employee engagement, motivation, efficiency, and retention.

Different Leadership Styles: Getting the Right People in the Right Place with the Right Skills, Attitudes and Behaviors

Leadership roles are crucial to department and organization success.

Command and control functions are performed through an arrangement of personnel, equipment, communications, facilities, and procedures employed by a commander in planning, directing, coordinating, and controlling forces and operations in the accomplishment of the mission. This concept certainly relates to military operations but can also be seen in many businesses and their leadership styles. Command & control behaviour from your leader can be visible in acts such as giving direct ‘orders’, assigning ‘duties’ to you on certain tasks without a focus on employee satisfaction, capacity or ability. 

There are several other successful leadership models that have been used in different organizations with excellent results but the old top down command and control leadership style may not generate successful business and performance results, particularly with younger generations. One of the most popular models is the servant leadership model, which emphasizes putting the needs of team members first, leading to trust, loyalty and many other benefits. Another model is the transformational leadership model, which focuses on inspiring and motivating employees to reach their full potential, leading to higher levels of engagement and productivity. The situational leadership model is another successful approach that tailors’ leadership style to fit the situation at hand, leading to greater flexibility and adaptability. The authentic leadership model is another model that emphasizes self-awareness, transparency, and ethical behavior, which creates a culture of trust and respect. Finally, the Laissez-faire leadership model allows team members the freedom to work independently and provides guidance and resources when necessary, leading to a more creative and innovative work environment. These successful leadership models demonstrate the importance of tailoring leadership style to the specific needs and circumstances of the organization and its team members.

What ever leadership style is best suited to your organization it must foster strong and productive working relationships, ensure rewarding and fulfilling work experiences for employees and help people create a career development plan that meets their needs and goals. These are the keys to high engagement, improved performance, and employee retention.    

Leadership in the Digital Age

Leadership in the digital age presents several unique challenges that require new skills and strategies to overcome. One of the most significant challenges is the fast pace of technological change and the need for leaders to keep up with the latest trends and developments. Additionally, digital communication has changed the way people interact, making it more difficult to build relationships and create trust with team members. The remote work environment has also created new challenges, including the need to effectively manage and engage remote teams. Finally, the digital age has led to increased competition, requiring leaders to be more innovative and adaptive to stay ahead. These challenges require leaders to develop new skills such as digital literacy, remote management, and adaptability, and to prioritize communication, collaboration, and innovation in their leadership style. It is also important to remember that employees are human and, as humans, we all require the intrinsic and fundamental necessities that cultivate satisfaction, engagement and commitment; these being respect, dignity, caring, appreciation, autonomy, connectedness, value alignment, purpose.…. to maximize retention and enable employees to perform at their best. By addressing these challenges, leaders can create a positive and productive work environment that is equipped to meet the demands of the digital age.


The paragraphs above cover various aspects of leadership, highlighting the different models of leadership, the benefits of a positive leadership approach, and the challenges of leadership in the digital age.

To achieve success in today’s marketplace, organizations need a committed, loyal and high-performance workforce. Leadership styles have significant impact on performance, retention and absenteeism considering the several generations in the workforce, all with their own unique needs and goals.

Successful leadership requires a shift towards a more empowering and human-centered leadership style that prioritizes trust, strong working relationships, and motivation. Leaders who focus on building trust with their team members create a positive work environment that fosters collaboration, open communication, and teamwork. Additionally, leaders who prioritize trust and motivation encourage their employees to take initiative, be creative, and embrace innovation, leading to increased employee satisfaction, improved work performance, and positive outcomes for organizations. However, leadership in the digital age presents unique challenges, including the fast pace of technological change, remote work environments, and increased competition. Leaders must develop new skills processes and strategies to overcome these challenges and create a positive and productive work environment that is equipped to facilitate and meet the human, personal and emotional needs of employees even in the digital age.

The transition from command & control strategies to trust & motivation leadership styles have a highly positive impact on organizational efficiency, employee satisfaction and lower rates of employee turnover and absenteeism. Organizations would be well served by helping their leaders and managers cultivate high engagement in their team, ensure the employee work experience is rewarding, fulfilling and support employees with a personal career development plan.

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