The Leadership Model: Post COVID-19

I recently came across a Wired article called “The ladder is no more. Here’s how to navigate a ‘squiggly’ career path” which talked about how the world of work has changed, and that career progression is no longer linear.

It was a brilliant article, which got me thinking about how the (already damaged) leadership model is broken in a post-COVID world.

Leaders who try to put a plaster over the damage to repair it are only postponing the inevitable and a whole new playbook is needed due to a number of factors:

  • Togetherness
  • Empathy
  • Productivity
  • A Safe & Inclusive Culture

Togetherness

Now that so many people have been given the opportunity to work from home, leaders understand that employees can work efficiently in teams and, with focus, solve problems in days or weeks.

The traditional lengthy processes to agree on solutions, gain stakeholder buy-in, create solutions, and gradually drive adoption are being dramatically condensed.

The hierarchical way of making a decision is not the most efficient, especially when those who are making the decisions do not necessarily represent the demographic of customers or clients working together.

Leaders who understand the importance of a unifying sense of purpose are finding a competitive advantage.

Boosting team togetherness is an integral part of developing an efficient and positive team outlook. This benefits the organisation as well as members and society as a whole.

A leader that works to form togetherness will not only increase organisational efficiency but will create an environment that is prosperous for the individuals.

Empathy

Most of us have been taught to leave our personal problems behind at the start of each workday. Issues such as sick children, children out of school, aging parents, or health problems were largely ignored by employers in a post-COVID world.

Leaders must understand that employees need to be empathised with, and continue to exhibit the same qualities they’ve shown during the pandemic. For example, Honest Burgers opened restaurant locations specifically designed to be close to employees so they would not have to take public transportation to work.

To achieve this, leaders should have and show genuine curiosity about the lives of those who work for them; by asking questions about people’s lives, their challenges, their aspirations, their families. Showing interest beyond professionalism is the strongest way to build relationships and form trust.

When a leader lacks empathy, employees tend to keep their guards up and feel alone in looking after their own interests. When being guided by an empathetic leader, employees understand and trust that they can be open about what they are thinking and feeling without being dismissed or ignored.

Empathy is an emotional and thinking tool that becomes stronger with use.

Productivity over Output

The CEO of Sabre saw that employees were so productive when working from home that the company decided to develop a “work anywhere” strategy.

PepsiCo, for example, developed a virtual onboarding program in 4 weeks that probably would have taken years before the pandemic (removal of red tape and people left alone to focus on the task at hand, despite having distractions like family issues, health worries, safety concerns) also speaks to purpose.

A good leader empowers people with the vision and purpose of the business. Leaders who understand the importance of uniting a sense of purpose are finding competitive advantage.

For example, Sainsbury’s purpose is to “feed the nation.”

To become an exceptional leader, you must be clear on your purpose. Some characteristics that make a purpose-driven leader are:

  • Self-awareness
  • Positivity and confidence
  • Innovation
  • Honest relationship building skills
  • Grit and resilience
  • Flexibility
  • Organisational capability
  • Drive and determination

Purpose-driven companies have a vision in place, a powerful mission, and core values that are brought to life through the processes of the organisation.

A purpose-driven leader focuses on company values, meaningful relationships and balancing purpose and profit.

A Safe & Inclusive Culture

When companies don’t create safe workplaces, there are immediate repercussions (and we often read about them in the news). So CEOs and Ops Leaders are now in a world where trust (which I define as competency, ethics, and listening) is sacrosanct.

Resilience demands optimism, a sense of joy, and a realistic but well-communicated vision of the future. A culture where failure is allowed fosters innovation and growth.

Every leader needs to become comfortable in supporting employees and their families, developing and nurturing long term relationships based on trust instead of micromanagement.

To develop a true growth mindset in relation to inclusivity, leaders should establish psychological safety, discourage ‘groupthink’ in order to gain a broad range of perspectives, be honest, and encourage collaboration across teams.

Inclusive leadership needs to be modeled from the top and these 6 traits below based on research by Deloitte is a great place to start:

Visible commitment: They articulate authentic commitment to diversity, challenge the status quo, hold others accountable, and make diversity and inclusion a personal priority.

Humility: They are modest about capabilities, admit mistakes, and create the space for others to contribute.

Awareness of bias: They show awareness of personal blind spots as well as flaws in the system and work hard to ensure meritocracy.

Curiosity about others: They demonstrate an open mindset and deep curiosity about others, listen without judgment, and seek empathy to understand those around them.

Cultural intelligence: They are attentive to others’ cultures and adapt as required.

Effective collaboration: They empower others, pay attention to diversity of thinking and psychological safety, and focus on team cohesion.

Leaders need coaching to enable them to operate in this new world ….how to supervise and support people working at home.