Leadership 2020, 2021 and Beyond

How have leaders successfully led in these uncertain times?

The challenge within organisations is coming from disruption, uncertainty and volatility but the key to navigating through these uncertain times is to provide psychological safety and providing a culture based on empowerment and trust so that people can bring their best self to work, be authentic and resilient and encourage innovation.

It is important to remember that when people feel uncertain, they make assumptions, when they are stressed, they become reactive, when they are worried, they become problem focused and when they are fearful, they allocate blame.

As leaders, we want to ensure that our employees are not experiencing these unpleasant emotions that lead to this undesired behaviour, but instead, we are giving our employees a sense of purpose which helps them to engage with one another, we are making them feel valued which in turn helps them to care for others, we keep them informed which helps them to be solution focused and when we empower them, they innovate.

Leaders have had to give their people autonomy and empower and trust them to complete their roles from home without the ability to watch and monitor them and their performance on a daily basis. The autonomy that employees have been given enables them to have personal control over their work and sends a powerful message to them that they are trusted.

When employees feel that they are trusted to do their roles and given the right amount of support. When their leaders are transparent and open and honest with them, and when they are authentic and empathetic and treat them fairly, they will be more likely to trust their leaders and are more likely to be open, honest and authentic with them in return.

Trust is therefore key to employee engagement and productivity as the pandemic continues to develop.

It is also important to create or maintain a culture of appreciation. It is easiest to show appreciation when working closely with someone on a daily basis, again it’s the little “thank yous” when you are sitting close to and witness something that someone does, when we are not in close proximity, it is important to ensure that this culture of appreciation is not forgotten.

In order to achieve this, it is important that leaders have the skills to give and receive effective feedback and to have the ability and confidence to have difficult conversations. People crave certainty and with so much uncertainty in the current environment, building and maintaining trust will help to build a high-performance culture. In organisations were people feel valued, cared for, consulted, informed, understood, engaged significantly outperform those people in organisations where people feel worried, concerned, anxious etc.

What are some of your top tips for effective leadership in the current environment? 

  1. Put people first always – look after your people first and ultimately the company, the stakeholders and communities will be rewarded
  1. Communicate openly and effectively – over communicate and connect with all stakeholders focusing on purpose and ensuring alignment of purpose
  2. Be empathetic and compassionate–don’t be afraid to show your human side. Reach out, check in on people, be there to support whether that is virtually or in person  
  3. Always be honest, authentic and accountable
  4. Focus on your values, beliefs and principals – Nobody has experience of dealing with and leading organisations through any situation quite like this. Leaders and companies must turn to their values, their principals and their belief systems to steer and guide them through this situation. Have the confidence to follow your principals
  5. Be visible – In person or virtually, great leaders are present and show up for their people
  6. Build trust – with employees, with stakeholders, with customers, with communities. People are vulnerable and need support and encouragement, it is the perfect time to do it
  7. Make a difference – ask how you can help, ask what you can do to make a difference to your employees, customers, stakeholders and communities
  8. Lead – navigate with purpose, optimism and hope
  9. Think long term (The infinite game) – it is extremely easy in the panic of “now” to think of today and the short term, understanding that it is difficult, we need to focus whenever and wherever possible on the long term.

According to Simon Sinek in his book, The Infinite Game, organisations with leaders who have a finite mindset tend to lag behind in innovation, discretionary effort, morale and ultimately performance.

Conversely, the leaders who embrace an infinite mindset build stronger, more innovative, more inspiring organisations. Their people trust one another and their leaders. They have the resilience to thrive in an ever-changing world and ultimately they are the ones who lead the rest of us into the future

Looking to the future, what is going to be important in leadership?

Without a doubt, the leaders who have been the most successful in navigating these uncertain times and leading their teams and organisations through, are those who have connected better with their people and been more human in their approach. They have been more present, more empathetic, more genuine, expansive, resilient and empowering, they are more emotionally intelligent.

I believe that there are typically three phases within a crisis. The first is where we have been for most of this year – Reactive where we have been taking a reactive short-term view, managing continuity and getting through the crisis or the next few months. The next stage is recovery where a company reflects, learns and emerges stronger and finally, thrive where the company uses the knowledge and experience from the first two phases and prepares for and shapes the future.

This is therefore the time to support and encourage out of the box thinking and innovation. Creating an agile learning culture in organisations is the key to enable our people to embrace agility, adaptability and drive the innovation needed to ensure long-term growth.

As leaders, we need to believe that we are shaping the future, not managing the past. Uncertainty creates opportunity for leadership at every level.

You need to be a more authentic, inclusive, emotionally intelligent leader than ever before and lead organisations that have cultures where everyone within the organisation, regardless of their rank or tenure, have the opportunity to learn and grow and have more authenticity and accountability, awareness, resilience, empathy, collaboration, transparency and empowerment and to be more humble.