It won’t be wrong to say that the pandemic has brought about a revolutionary change in the way we go about living our lives. It is now, more than ever, that we are all a lot more conscious of our health and have been giving it the first priority. The consumer behavior across brands has changed by a mile, forcing brand to reinvent their approach. Another key impact of the pandemic has been that it has pushed us to a self-protection mode. The risk taking appetite has reduced as people have been forced to think of being better prepared for the worst.
Along with testing the adaptability and sustainability of businesses, the pandemic also tested the leadership skills across levels and industries. It has forced the best of leaders to revisit their approach and include a sense of purpose, inclusivity and empathy. Leaders, irrespective of the size of their team or the domain they are in, have invested their time and energies into evolving their own leadership brand into something that is in line with the new normal.
The new age leader
The leaders of 2020 and beyond are expected to be agile, resilient with a high level of emotional quotient. Instead of only focusing on enhancing sales or delivering results, leaders of today and the future are expected to invest their energies in building a collaborative workforce that is well-aligned to the brand’s purpose and vision. The era of alpha leader is history and the present as well as future belongs to the leaders who are humble, transparent and more committed to help their team grow. Also, ability to rebuild and relearn has become absolutely necessary in today’s world.
Here are some noticeable shifts in leadership in the new normal.
Leadership has evolved from a few faces defining the short-term and long-term goals and then briefing their team to follow the orders, to a more democratized form of leadership with collective ownership. It is more to do with collaboration and interactions amongst those working together and across teams in an organization. The team members are seen as active participants in leadership and not as mere containers or executioners. The focus of leadership has moved to people and team development, building work groups and collaborating across levels. Accountability has drilled down to the lowest level in the era of WFH with individuals expected to deliver on the tasks assigned.
From a good to have, empathy has emerged as a must-have in the list of leadership traits. With the pandemic hitting home last year, companies saw an urgent need for leaders to also double up as counselors. Empathy and compassion have gained utmost importance as the pandemic hit millions in a profound manner. Leaders are expected to be more considerate and understand that their team member might be grieving or handling an emergency situation on the personal front. They need to be prepared to give time off as need be, as well as have a back-up plan to ensure that the overall team productivity is not impacted. Also, leaders need to double up as mentors more than often because their team members may be dealing with a personal crisis. With teams working from home, leaders are also expected to invest more time in building a good rapport with all their team members and have a more humane interaction.
Leading for a better performance
Getting the team to perform better is not only a function of having the best talent, but also depends on building a cohesive team that is aligned to the company’s overall vision. Leaders need to ensure that their teams are well in sync with the organization’s short-term as well as long-term goals. Leaders should also celebrate their employees and be appreciative of smaller milestones and successes. The leaders who are appreciative of the good work of their team members will be able to build a team that delivers better results. Also, leaders are expected to focus on building an engaged workforce. Employee engagement is no longer only the prerogative of the HR team. Leaders should do team meetings, one-on-one interactions, and non-agenda meetings with their team members on an ongoing basis, so as to build a close-knit unit- where leader is approachable and the team members stand up for each other. Also, teams must be made to understand what the various members do, how they are interdependent, and how they can effectively give one another feedback and learn from each other.
While traditionally leaders were expected to know it all and always take the perfect decisions, the new normal belongs to leaders who are real- who are okay with the fact that they don’t have all the answers and can also take decisions that don’t work in their favour. The larger than life image of the leader has given way to the humble leaders who are trying to find their way in unchartered territories. The leaders who will do well in these uncertain times are ones who have no qualms in accepting that they don’t know the answers, and are willing to take feedback to improve performance. It takes a strong leader to respond to a difficult question with “I don’t know, but I’ll find out”. Humility will be a big asset for leaders in the new world we are living in.
Being a good listener
In these times of uncertainty when the anxiety levels continue to be high, leaders need to be good listeners. They need to be more approachable, invest more time in talking to their team members, and focus on nurturing relationships. Leaders should ‘listen to understand’ and not ‘listen to respond’. Such leaders not only have a more calming effect on their team, but also are seen as problem solvers.
To conclude, with the new normal here to stay, leaders have no option but to rehash the way they lead. Some of the not so important traits have now gained prominence with leaders expected to lead in these times of inconvenient uncertainty and collective trauma.
With disparate teams and work from home here to stay, the rules of leadership have changed. The future belongs to the leaders who can inspire and build a cohesive team. Leaders who understand this are the ones who are expected to shine in the times of unpredictability. The new age leaders need to focus a lot more on empowered communication, better listening ability, as well as high-performance team dynamics. Needless to say, leaders who will shine in the future will be the ones who choose inspiration over authority, celebrate every small success and take failure as learning.
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