The global COVID health crisis has led to a defining moment for leaders. At this point in time, leadership is critical. Being a great leader is hard work, and incredibly difficult – but it is a skill which can be developed, and leadership is urgent and needed more so now than ever before.

The COVID health crisis has given us another reason to focus on leadership, alongside the convergence of 5G, WiFi 6G, Blockhain, AI and VR leading to exponential and disruptive change – the way we work and do business will never be the same again. We must harness the power of leadership, which is cited as the number one enabler of cultural and business transformation in organizations (Korn Ferry research), in order to accelerate our own transformation.

Crisis often leads to change, and with COVID and other shifts coming at us we understand there are lasting changes that we will face to work (humans & machines collaborating), the workforce (continuous learning), and workplace (physical and virtual environments merge, remote working).

Considering COVID as a distinct driver of change, there are three main areas of focus for leaders:

1.     Care

With a much higher volume of the workforce that will work from remote for a higher percentage of time, leaders will have to reinforce some key aspects of their way to manage teams. Delegation, management by objectives, generosity in helping people to develop themselves, empathy, compassion and a higher level of care will be more and more needed. People skills and really caring for colleagues is important as colleagues turn to their leaders and ask them to “lead by example”. This will be an important component of the engagement. An important action will be to look after their own (and their teams’) continuous physical and mental wellbeing and, also to understand and promote routines and norms that do not make the smart/ flexible work a burden. knowing that each colleague has a different situation in terms of work and personal life (childcare, family responsibilities, health crises…).

2.     Change

It’s likely that any recovery will be non-linear and things such as future waves of COVID, slow economic recoveries and general market uncertainty and volatility are now the day-to-day reality for leaders. This means that leaders must be able to manage ambiguity, uncertainty, and continuous change, and ensuring that they, and their teams, are enabling new skills to be learnt and developed will be important. Being able to pivot and react to change become vital.

3.     Community

In the Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends survey of 2020, organizational culture and leadership behaviours were highlighted as the two biggest factors influencing an organizations ability to create a sense of belonging. This will be another important challenge for leaders as COVID has accelerated the shift towards remote work, and in many cases fully distributed teams globally.

Leaders are being thrown into the deep end and having to find new ways to keep their teams working cohesively, ensuring their engagement and motivation. It is important that there is not the creation of a “two-tier” workforce (those who work remote vs. on-site), there is continuous two-way communication in order to have great collaboration, innovation, and engagement as well as being able to clearly cascade and deliver on expectations (goals and deliverables) and the corporate strategy / purpose / culture.

I am mindful that the success in our business transformation is less about technology, and more about people. We should always consider that culture is placed ahead of structure. Great leadership can give you the best possible chance of bringing you into the future.

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