Decoding Leadership for the Next Normal

A leader’s true potential lies in steering their team towards success and grooming and enabling the next generation of leaders.

In today’s business environment, leaders deal with an entirely virtual workforce across levels – not just existing team members working from home but also many new hires who joined the organization virtually. Consequently, leaders need to explore innovative ways to connect with these people actively, understand them, and gauge their motivations, goals, ambitions, skills, and sensibilities.

The subject of ‘Leadership’ is as enamoring today as it was at the time when I joined hands with the corporate world 30 years ago. While all of us would have experienced leadership in our lives, very rarely we would have had the ability to define “what maketh a good leader.” Trying to ask this question to ourselves and others could leave us surprised as there can be no defined answer to it.

I have learned so much from leaders I admire, inside and outside of companies, on how to lead and how we all can continuously learn and improve. However, the meaning and interpretation of leadership has seen a paradigm shift with the pandemic and the virtual + hybrid work cultures need a different perspective on leadership all together.

There are critical differences in the way influential leaders managed organizational productivity and morale during the crisis.

# They focused on change management and employee experience rather than monitoring daily activities and output, putting cooperation and collaboration at the centre of their business.

# They actively engaged team members across geographies to ensure robust, two-way communication.

# They strived to help every team member adapt to the rapidly changing business environment, aligning personal objectives with the company’s strategic goals.

Building organization-wide leadership culture

A leader’s true potential lies in steering their team towards success and grooming and enabling the next generation of leaders by:

# Working closely with future leaders to coach them in leadership, professional development, and career transformation.

# Understanding the leaders working with them are potent thinkers and deserve a platform to voice their opinions.

# Communicating, collaborating, and cooperating with those leaders to organize and synchronize efforts towards a common end goal.

# Checking the pulse of the teams regularly, identifying risks early, and taking affirmative action to reduce, if not eliminate, those risks.

In today’s business environment, leaders deal with an entirely virtual workforce across levels – not just existing team members working from home but also many new hires who joined the organization virtually. Consequently, leaders need to explore innovative ways to connect with these people actively, understand them, and gauge their motivations, goals, ambitions, skills, and sensibilities.

Leading by example

Think about Alexander the Great. His key performance indicators (KPIs) were formation, discipline, and morale. The formation was dependent on effective leadership. The leaders boosted the troops’ morale with active communication, leadership, and, most importantly, trust.

Communication is fundamental

Dealing with a permanently mobile or remote workforce is not alien to us. Engaging the leadership across hierarchal levels above and below you is crucial to driving personal and organizational goals.

Reimagining pre-pandemic corporate practices can help build meaningful connections within the organization. Here are some ideas to consider:

1. Using corporate social media: We connect with friends and family members over Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and similar tools are available for the workplace. Effective, savvy leaders are using them to forge stronger relations with their teams.

2. Polls, surveys, and talk shows: These are equally important tools for effective communication with team members. However, you must make known the findings of such surveys and polls and demonstrate your commitment with actions on the results.

3. Virtual meetings and conferences: Maintaining focus on hearing and being heard, leaders can effectively communicate with their teams by keeping in touch, whether one-to-one or via periodic virtual team meetings and conferences. The keyword here is regular.

Collaboration is underrated

Eliciting collaboration among the workforce is impossible without defining two significant inclinations that drive human beings.

1. Something to gain: It is not just money, social standing, a career path, or even job satisfaction. It is a combination of all those needs. Skill development, team development, certifications, and mentoring programs form the toolkit for leaders to give their teams something to look forward to, encourage them to take responsibility for that vision, and gain from it.

2. Something to lose: It is not the carrot and stick approach. The “something to lose” needs to be defined as what the people cannot gain – not merely some form of punishment. Leaders need to show that the team not making progress cannot be status quo.

Cooperation is the glue that binds

It is possible only when leaders make an effort to hear the voices of others as much as they like being heard. They must get to know the people they work with while allowing their teams to know them better. And most importantly, they must lead with honesty, integrity, empathy, dignity, and bravery. All of it translates into but one word – charisma — the charisma that comes with relentless, ironclad self-assurance, an accurate indicator of a future-ready leader.

(By Ashok Fenn, Chief Strategy and Growth Officer, Xebia)

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