The COVID-19 pandemic has changed and shifted our expectations of the leadership role. The swiftness of change and the uncertainty it inflicted on us has altered our values. We're seeing leadership in a new light. Existing leaders now need to reassess their roles in response to the change.
There are five major shifts in thinking and values, which will forever change the leadership role.
1. Shift in the perception of 'valuable' employees.
Businesses have realised the importance of their front-line teams in getting things done. Without the efforts of these people, who are often at the lower end of the pay scale, many businesses couldn't have continued. In an essay by Kramer and Kramer, they pose the question, how are individual perceptions of meaningful work and calling in certain occupations influenced by the Covid-19 pandemic? It's only when a crisis hits that the glory of some roles loses out to those which were considered lowly or mundane. Ask yourself, who would be most important to you now – someone who deliver the materials/tools/information that you need or your CEO? Where is the value now?
2. Shift in team member priorities.
Being kept apart from family or friends has shown people where their true priorities lie, and it's not work. Our relationships have changed. If you asked any member of your team who matters now, it will almost certainly be family. That's where people want to spend their time. When it's possible that you could lose the people you love most, you realise what really matters to you. Leaders need to accept and work with the changed priorities of their people because if it comes to a choice, work may not come out on top.
3. Shift in the expectation of empathy and personalisation.
One of the biggest adjustments requires leaders to adapt to the individual. Whether they are in the office or working from home, leaders need to use their EQ to understand each person's situation, their pressures, their priorities, and their values. No longer can they think of their team as a single entity – and this is challenging. More than ever, leaders need to show themselves as humans and build relationships with their people. Honest, authentic conversations about work and life will enhance connection. Empathy will solidify it.
4. Shift in the decision-making power.
Having remote teams has meant leaders have had to step back from the work and let their people manage it for themselves. The companies who have given their people some autonomy and decision-making power are those who have had the best results. It makes sense. To retain power is to lose your agility and that costs the company in the long run. If you have the right people in the job, why not show your faith in them? It's time to let go control over the details of people's work and instead, start to support them. Make sure they have everything they need to make the right decision and get the work done.
5. Shift in focus.
If there is one thing we learnt during this time, it's that plans can be shattered at the drop of a hat. While planning is still important because you have to know where you're headed, it's the outcome leaders need to focus on instead of the journey. Your purpose is the driver, and it's what will hold your team together.
I see a significant move away from system or process-led leadership towards a more human one. While we still value strong and adaptive leadership, there is now a heavy emphasis on 'soft skills.' How do you measure up?
Check out the big shift in employee engagement post-Coronavirus in this video below: