Leadership skills needs evolve, or do they?
Within life, change is the one thing we can all consistently count on and that, of course, includes leadership skills, styles, and practices. So, how does a two-year pandemic-driven environment and the resulting disruption impact the skillsets we need right now?
A helpful place to start is to look at the environment around us and identify the key leadership aptitudes the current environment requires of us. We often see:
- Virtual or hybrid working models
- Accelerating digital transformations
- Workforce transition/evolution (i.e.: great resignation/re-evaluation)
- Transition to green business models
There are real differences and nuances particularly when we consider “knowledge-work” versus “daywork”. Notwithstanding these localized differences, the four trends are consistent with the World Economic Forum’s own analysis. Let’s look at some of the personal and leadership skills these trends require.
Skills in a hybrid/remote environment
The current hybrid/remote work environment contains the age-old challenges of communication, engagement and adaptation, which are commonplace in geographically distributed global teams. However, there is a new and unique challenge resulting from the pandemic. It is the addition of new dimensions of stress and pressure, for instance, juggling care responsibilities, work expectations and healthcare issues. The leadership skills necessary here then are:
- Compassion and empathy
- Being supportive
- Establishing appropriate expectations
- Being flexible to unforeseen circumstances and issues
- Connecting more regularly, and watching for signs of stress or burnout
The key point to remember here is to remain alert and mindful of the team, its dynamics and check in regularly with everyone, in order to connect in the way they want to. This is simply because there is no one-size-fits-all approach, we need to remember that teams are made up of individual people with individual needs.
Skills in accelerating digital transformations
For those of us experienced with digital transformation initiatives, we know first-hand that they are harder than traditional transformations. Digital transformations require additional depth and breadth, which depends on technical and people skills. In particular, personal leadership skills which are key to adapting in a digitally transformed workplace. For instance:
- Being digitally-savvy
- Adopting a continuous-learning based mindset and execution strategy
- Finding new ways of working day-to-day with technology and data
- Adapting communication to use both traditional and new digital methods
Let’s consider continuous learning capabilities, for instance. The new world of work requires individuals that can translate and bridge new digital methods and processes into the existing ways of working. These individuals are typically skilled in understanding the business side, the technical aspects, and the business potential of digital technologies. This trend predictably creates opportunities to integrate digital skills and people skills to influence decision making, and by extension increase our value to the organization.
Green business model skills
The transition to Green Economies has brought with it renewed focus on traditional leadership skills but has also identified new critical skills.
For instance, if we consider the renewed focus on resource efficiency – it needs:
- Strategic leadership to develop and build resource-efficient business models that produce greater benefits to the organization and its stakeholders. This is particularly important in anticipation of new regulations (e.g.: a jump-start on peers)
- Business and finance skills to identify, measure and report on carbon and natural environmental matters
- Design and implementation skills to support new technologies, products and processes that increase resource efficiency
If we consider climate resiliency in the green business, it requires skills to:
- Combine science and technology to model and interpret climate change projections
- Conduct risk management assessments, such as future resource availability of input materials (such as minerals, metals, etc).
An interesting fact in the Green Economy is that skills preparation and investments in our own capabilities are decisive factors enabling the Green Transition from the outset, rather than merely resulting from the transition.
Leading through disruption needs a mindset aligned towards capability development and augmentation. Learning agility, or continuous learning is a necessity for everyone in the organization. It is no longer just for leaders. By reimagining business needs, redesigning the roles to support them, and investing in people we set ourselves up for long-term success. One where people are at the heart of the equation and technology supports, rather than replaces, humans.
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Cartoon credit: Scott Adams