Preparing Leaders For The New Reality

The past year represents a significant break between the past and the future. Leaders in particular have experienced profound changes in the meaning and character of their jobs.

Here are seven things the leaders of today – and tomorrow – should remember as they reshape their role.

You need to be vulnerable. The shock of the pandemic and its impact is a collective experience. From the outset, the most effective leaders understood that acknowledging their own feelings and experiences was a vital way to empathise with others. As a result, showing vulnerability has become a vital part of what it means to be a good leader.

Don’t manage workers, empower them. Remote working has broken down established hierarchies by giving employees greater autonomy. This is a great opportunity to create a culture of ‘checking in, not checking up,’ where everyone feels empowered, and to redefine the role of the manager as someone who helps people be their best in a remote context rather than just concentrating on output.

Get to know people in context. While getting a glimpse of people’s homes may suggest we’re seeing their ‘real’ selves, it is important to remember that Zoom identities are not necessarily authentic. A person’s (working from) home life is still only a small part of their experience. You may even get a clearer sense of who they are ‘at work’ when in the office.

Bravely redefine performance. Moving away from established performance management systems has proved hard in the past, but now is the time to do it. Leaders need to question why work is designed the way it is and reimagine how it could look in future.

Diverse networks are key. Today’s leaders are desperate for new perspectives – so it is no surprise that one of the most sought after skills right now is design thinking. Maintaining a diverse network is another way to help you find newer and stronger ways of approaching the challenges you face.

Above all, it is important for leaders to ensure that they, as individuals, are purposeful and resilient. Role modelling self-care is particularly key. Many leaders have naturally focused on organisational resilience over the past year – but they need to take care of their own health and wellbeing, and make sure that others are doing the same. One way of doing this is to help people maintain a sense of purpose. When the workforce is dispersed, leaders bring a valuable sense of continuity. It is up to them to define connectivity and remind people of how to embody the organisation’s purpose and values.

For a deeper dive into these issues, listen to Lynda Gratton’s LBS podcast with Randall Peterson, and the HSM Pandemic and Leadership webinar from last year.