How important is it that managers and leaders are hip?
Is it OK to manage the same way today that we managed in the 80s?
First, let’s define hip. My Apple dictionary says to be hip means to be: fashionable, stylish, popular, all the rage, in fashion, in vogue, up-to-the-minute; informal trendy, cool, styling/stylin’, with it, in, hot, big, happening, now, groovy, funky, sharp, the in thing, phat, kicky, tony, fly.
The etymology of the word hip is apparently a hotly debated topipc as written about in this Slate article. Here’s a snippet:
The origin of hip (and its partner, hep; the words are related) is, unsatisfyingly, unknown. The term first appeared at the turn of the 20th
century, and quickly became widespread. Its meaning at this early point
was “aware; in the know,” and it was not widely used by
African-Americans. It wasn’t until the late 1930s and early 1940s,
during the jive era, that the modern senses—”sophisticated; currently
fashionable; fully up-to-date”—arose. (These senses did arise among African-Americans.)
Interesting. Back to the question – do managers need to be hip?
Well, I don’t think it is critical that they buy the latest designer duds or are masters at IMing on My Space. That said, I would make the argument that being hip will help you succeed.
1. You need to connect with and relate to employees, peers, and customers. Unless you work for a senior center, staffed by senior citizens, with vendors run by seniors, you will encounter the elusive and mysterious creature called youth.
2. Many of the “up-to-the-minute” tools and methods are very helpful for managing a business. Communicating via internal blogs, using wikis, training using iPods, IM for customers, podcasts for marketing, interactive websites, virtual communities, global business practices, viral marketing, going naked (authenticity) – and so on.
3. Being hip AND being sage (experienced) seems to me like a huge advantage. If you are both, you will be revered like the business treasure you are.
4. Being hip can be a lot of fun and make your career more interesting. Who wants to go stale like a left open box of Ritz Crackers?
Upping your hip quotient is easy – start paying attention to what people are interested in. Supercharge your curiosity. Ask a hip person to mentor you. I guess if you are reading this blog post, you are already on your way. If this post has been printed out and placed into your prehistoric plastic Inbox sitting on the outermost edge of your fiberboard desk, jump online and start participating in what’s new and interesting.
What if you work for a prehistoric manager? Find a way to gradually help him or her evolve. Select tools and technologies that will help him or her simplify their lives without being too big of a jump. If your boss still has an admin assistant typing emails for him or her, it is probably too soon to jump into vlogging and the virtues of twittering at work.