‘In a world that is constantly changing, there is no one subject or set of subjects that will serve you for the foreseeable future, let alone for the rest of your life. The most important skill to acquire now is learning how to learn’ – John Naisbitt.
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected our environment in a way that none of us would have dreamed possible. This global mega shift has completely changed our entrenched ways of living and working.
Being connected is now more important than ever to help us to work remotely, manage remote teams, school our children, engage with loved ones, access healthcare practitioners online, attend virtual events and conferences, and maintain some semblance of normality. The workplace is also rapidly evolving on the back of moves to keep employees safe and healthy and due to the accelerated uptake of existing digital technologies − such as artificial intelligence, chatbots, and also the use of big data.
How must leadership adapt to ensure relevance in future?
Data-driven leadership brings advantages. Some companies may go back to rigid work from office policies, but I expect remote working and digital integration to gain momentum and bring a competitive edge. Individuals and companies across the world have now had a chance to realise the benefits of fast-tracking digital transformation. In this new world of work, a leader’s ability to work with data will be fundamental to their identifying what is being done well and what could be done better.
Adaptable leaders thrive. Every global crisis demands an adaptive leadership response to meet the needs of the people and the market that we lead. The capacity for crisis leadership (to very quickly reinvent oneself) has become a necessity.
Emotionally intelligent (EQ) leaders inspire people. I have recently needed to support my remote workforce through more scenarios that centre on mental health and emotion than was ever required when they worked at the office. As pressures that challenge the human need for connection and recognition overcome us, leaders must develop new ways reassure and guide. Are we up to the task of recruiting, growing and connecting with a digitally linked team? Would we be able to measure and recognise the value in an individual who we may seldom see in person? Can we inspire productivity, innovation and connectedness in a remote workforce?
Transparent leaders gain trust. When we lose the chance to connect with others physically and assess their non-verbal social cues, it becomes more important than ever to find reasons to believe in and trust them. Examples of poor leadership cannot escape the scrutiny of a connected and informed society. Remote staff need a new level of transparency around the decisions we make as their leaders.
Delegate to capable leaders
A crisis both builds and reveals character. What makes for a good leader in the face of a crisis? For our people, businesses and economies, the consequences of COVID 19 will play out for years to come. What it takes to stand your ground as a leader now comes down to integrity. I gain my best leadership examples from the Bible: ‘But select capable people from all the people − people who fear God, trustworthy people who hate dishonest gain − and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens’ − Exodus 18:21.