Jo Lyon, Co-Founder and Managing Director, Talking Talent
Adversity calls for an evolution of leadership. It has a way of revealing, course-correcting and recalibrating what leadership really means. The organisations that will be best equipped to adapt to business beyond lockdown are those with the best traits at the helm. But what does the modern leader look like and how will they navigate a normal which is unchartered?
For many leaders, it has already been a very challenging time, both personally and professionally. It can be extremely difficult to find the right leadership style during a crisis, as leaders are called upon to do and be many things. They are looked to for the answers when the future is unclear, and they carry the weight of expectation for colleagues and team members.
There will be some significant challenges ahead as leaders navigate the transition back to work. The practicalities of re-entry amidst a time of heightened anxiety and stress will bring its challenges, both emotionally and physically.
From our conversations with HR executives around the globe, here’s what we know about our ‘new normal’:
- Business leaders are demonstrating some fantastic new habits and styles that people want to see taken forward and enhanced: authenticity, transparency, connection to name a few. We’ve seen some great examples of inclusion best practices amongst the chaos, along with a sense of community and giving back.
- For some people, there will be a sense of loss around what they may be leaving behind. But there will also be celebrations of things that we all want to leave in the past.
- For others, there are serious fears about health and wellbeing as they re-enter the workplace.
- For many people, there is enhanced anxiety around organisational change, restructuring and what that will mean for roles.
Great leaders may not be born that way. The capabilities that mark the best and that will guide organisations successfully through this complex and difficult transition can be developed now and refined over time. But first, leaders need to ground themselves. They need practical tools to think about how they manage functions, teams and individuals back, as everyone will be moving through the change curve at different speeds.
The next phase of the “transition” will be vital to ensuring the successful navigation at organisation, team and individual levels. A crisis alters the way people process information, so leaders will need to balance being inspirational and comforting while continuing to push on performance. Being mindful of peoples hope and fears at a time of dynamic and rapid change is key.
This all requires a new kind of leader – a ‘Modern Leader’.
If you want to be this type of leader (and cultivate this type of leadership in your organisation to drive a successful return), here are our 5 C’s of ‘Modern Leadership’: Coaching, Courage, Care, Creativity and Clarity.
The 5 C’s
Coaching – embrace the style
Coaching is the leadership style of a modern company culture, and key to finding our ‘new normal’. But, few leaders know how to make coaching work.
Organisations need to be sure their leaders know how to do it right and sensitively. Leaders need to understand the psychology behind complex transitions; peoples hopes and fears, and what they value most during a crisis. They need to constantly review their communication styles and plans, and how they show up on a daily basis.
Time is not on our side. We all need to remain agile, pivot with purpose and ensure individuals and teams are on the journey with us. A coaching style brings people with you. Rather than giving direction, coaching provokes thought and allows people to feel like they are in control and contributing to both their personal growth and future organisational success.
Courage – find it and inspire it
As we face a future full of uncertainty, one of the greatest challenges for leaders is silencing their fear, finding the headspace to move beyond ‘reactive mode’ and to rethink their long-term plans in this new world no-one knows anything about. This takes courage and a confidence to act. Leaders need to be bold and brave and inspire courage in others. There is a power within our vulnerability and courageous leaders know how to embrace it, confront their doubts, and trust themselves to handle whatever gets thrown at them. In times of crisis especially it takes courage to make tough decisions, to prioritise, have uncomfortable or challenging conversations, and to take risks (knowing not every decision will pay off). Try new things, take action, remain agile and course-correct where needed - it’s exactly what leaders need to do right now as doing nothing is not an option.
Care – it’s three dimensional
Managing through this period of uncertainty will pose significant pressures on today’s leaders. Looking at ‘care’ from three perspectives is key to being able to get through this challenging period: self-care, other-care and simply caring about what you do.
Keeping leaders and senior management in a positive headspace and engaged to lead will mitigate the onset of burnout, reduce stress, and ensure sustainable performance –for themselves and the teams they lead. Resilience as a key component of wellbeing and the importance of self-compassion becomes even more important so that individuals can prepare, manage and succeed in this challenging climate.
Right now, caring really is an essential competence of a modern leader.
Creativity – a secret weapon
In today’s world, almost nothing is certain. The ability to plot a course through the uncertainty and guide individuals and teams without knowing what’s ahead will take creativity. Creative leaders can take situations that are unnerving for most and turn them into opportunities that spark change. If leaders are leveraging their creativity, they have an ability to maximise perspectives, innovate, create momentum, and take their people with them, remaining agile as the context changes shape - and encouraging all of this in others.
Clarity – bring a vision to life
Moving teams from chaos to clarity is one of the most vital function's leadership needs right now. Clarity really means to be clear in purpose. Clarity gives direction, meaning and synergy across teams and the organisation. Unfortunately, leaders tend to overestimate how much clarity their team actually has. Modern leadership calls for a renewed sense of clarity. Among many things the pandemic has taught us is that people value transparency and authenticity and the clarity they provide. Getting it right will build a sense of community and belonging.