A successful post pandemic leadership style
The post pandemic leadership style will be one that thrives in and survives a crisis. It’s unchartered territory and requires new thinking.
As we seem to be emerging from a post pandemic period we are still in unchartered territory. The old line that we can’t solve new problems with old thinking resonates loudly. The post pandemic leadership style will be one that thrives in, and survives, a crisis. We are in unchartered territory and requires new approaches.
Battle lines are being drawn around working from home, hybrid, and returning to the office. What employees want is flexibility. They want it for themselves but they also want it from their leaders. They are looking for leaders with vision and good communication skills who can share their message with clarity. In an era where there are high levels of distrust in certain areas, they want leaders they can count on.
There are six key areas where the next generation of leaders need to demonstrate their skills:
These leadership traits are at the core of the return to a physical, communal workplace, however it will be structured.
6 key attributes of a successful post pandemic leadership style
As we emerge from a collective trauma, one of the major challenges is to let people know they are being heard. The meteoric early success of the audio platform Clubhouse and it’s recent drop in numbers, for me a sign that people just want to feel listened to. Now that life is opening up they are going elsewhere;
It’s important to be present and attentive and the speaker knows that you hear what they are saying. If you are doing this online your listening has to be visible and audible, with recaps and clarification. Recap frequently and clarify any points which might be confusing. Understand that problems are like diamonds. They are multi-faceted and not usually binary. Find the nuance and the point for compromise. You don’t have to agree with everything. The only thing you are committing to is listening.
Demonstrating trust is one of the major characteristics behind that elusive concept “gravitas” we hear so much about. It’s not only about beliefs around hard skills and performance. We do need to know that people have the abilities to do their job competently, so hard skills play a part. Consistency, openness, integrity, and all manner of other soft skills and qualities which are very subjective, also play a key role.
Trust is closely aligned with integrity. Dr. Brené Brown says: “Integrity is choosing courage over comfort; choosing what is right over what is fun, fast, or easy; and choosing to practice our values rather than simply professing them.”
As companies express concern about employee productivity, all research from HBR suggests when employees have the option to work remotely they are more engaged and productive. Choice is fundamental.
Transparency is one of the hottest topics and a top-rated leadership attribute. During lockdown many employees have felt like mushrooms, that is ‘kept in the dark’. Transparency in leadership means keeping employees informed of whatever news there is, the good, the bad and the ugly. People don’t like surprises and they like shocks even less. They want clear expectations and constructive feedback. They want updates, the opportunity to contribute and give feedback, especially if their health is at risk.
Returning to the office with the accompanying “re-entry syndrome” is making many nervous around their physical safety. Leaders need to communicate in an open way the measures they are taking to protect the well-being of their teams.
Linking these characteristics together results in collaboration and empowerment. When leaders empower their teams, communicate openly and accurately they earn trust. This is vital because managing hybrid teams calls for different skills and a new post pandemic leadership style. Things aren’t just going to bounce back to the way they were before pandemic. For most, this is good news. There is lots of robust discussion on how the workplace will look as we settle down into something. The #WFH brigade are vocal but there is a strong contingent who want to get back to the office. Most want some sort of flexibility and we will have to see how that works out and the cost involved.
However, we all have different experiences of the pandemic. Understanding what has been going on for different team members means that empathy is going to be an important trait when the workplace opens up. Some will have endured hardship and loss. Others may have been isolated or overwhelmed. There are different levels of concern around the safety of the workplace. If you as a leader are personally stretched, get help for yourself and involve someone else to offer emotional support to your team.
It’s more important than ever that we communicate with clarity and consistency, but also with intention. Working remotely has knocked chance encounters on the head, where we could pick up what was going for someone from their non-verbal communication. We can sense a vibe in an office which is harder to do online.
Esther Perel the Belgian Relationship Therapist said in an article for the Guardian “We see each other, and we’re talking to each other, and we’re in dialogue., but I’m not making eye contact with you. And my body is not registering. I’m not able to lean toward you; I’m not able to move away from you. The entire embodied experience that you have in person is absent here. We can have a conversation, and it may become a very deep, rich, meaningful conversation, but there are elements of body language that can only be noticed when two people are physically present in a room”
It’s important to establish communication preferences around channels and timing. Now we are all familiar with Zoom Doom we are approaching online meetings from a different angle. Getting feedback and testing the mood of your team will be critical.
Organisations that refuse or are unable to move away from “patrol and control” management techniques will probably struggle. All indications suggest that a successful post pandemic leadership style will involve all the characteristics mentioned above. They are wellness focused and people-centred.
If problems are like diamonds, durable and multi-faceted, this is what we need to see in a post pandemic leadership style. Many will say these are surely old skills? This is partly true, but the current need for them is greater than ever. As we hear increasingly of leaders coercing their teams back to a physical workplace, it would seem that they may be very much on the back burner.
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