2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted all industries. For businesses to survive, recover and grow; agility, digital transformation, creativity and strategic direction is essential to balance the needs of the business, the changing environment and the evolving workforce.
The pandemic has truly challenged what it means to be a leader. The leaders of today, and tomorrow, will need to leverage and develop different skills. This is something we are passionate about at KEASE. We have outlined below our thoughts on the critical skills that leaders need to be successful.
If you research ‘skills needed to lead through COVID-19’, resilience is top of the list. Psychologist Adam Grant describes resilience as ‘our strength and speed of response to adversity’. It is not about how much resilience our leaders have but how do we provide the right environment for our leaders to build resilience and learn what does it take for them to find strength in a tough situation (1). Chances are that we will not click our fingers and go back to a pre-COVID world. With a pandemic comes disruption and with disruption comes challenge, opportunity, excitement and nervousness.
But how do you create an environment that enables your leaders to build their resilience? Josh Bersin’s below captures what is needed to create a resilient organisation and individual resilience.
Leadership agility means being able to anticipate change. This means taking a proactive approach to business decisions, rather than a reactive one (2).
The pandemic has encouraged, or forced, many companies to re-think their purpose, focus and to be agile. For example, in the construction industry many projects have been delayed or put on hold as many businesses are not in a position to invest in premises in the current environment. Contracts have had to be managed, supply chains re-thought and schedules re-worked. At the same time, governments are considering advance spending on infrastructure to reinvigorate the economy (3). It is hard to predict what the future will hold and to keep businesses evolving and workforce engaged, agile leadership will be critical.
In addition to agility, creativity and innovation are key. Whilst a leader may not always be the person behind the ideas, creating a culture of adaptability, agility and one that fosters innovation and change will be important. The market shapers—those that shape the future of their industry rather than adapt to it—will emerge stronger (4).
‘A company is only as resilient as its people’ (5). It is common knowledge that being a technical or subject matter expert does not necessarily make a good leader, and this is something that many industries such as utilities, construction and healthcare have acknowledged for some time. Now more than ever leaders need to be human centred.
But what skills does a leader need to be ‘human centred’?!
- Emotional and social intelligence – Social and emotional intelligence is the ability to be aware of our own and others’ feelings – in the moment – and use that information to lead yourself and others (6). Strong relationship building skills are important, as is empathy. Brene Brown said that “Empathy fuels connection” (7) and connection is this new world will pull apart a great leader from an ok leader.
- Self-awareness – of themselves (including how they react under stress!), as well as awareness of their team. Exploring this area further will enable leaders to build relationships based on trust, honesty and empowerment.
- Leading with digital transformation – digital transformation has been on the cards for some time in many industries. Prior to the pandemic 70% of power and utilities leaders (6) were focused on recruiting or retaining talent for digital (8). COVID-19 has fast tracked digital transformation in many ways and future digital transformation is critical for business growth.
- Strategic vision – Leaders will need to be forward thinking, strategic and insights driven. Take the healthcare industry for example, which is fast paced, high risk and constantly evolving (even more so over 2020!). Leaders will need to have the ability to balance the needs of the organisation, customers and workforce – and bring their people on the journey.
- PowerSkills – Leaders will need to leverage or develop the following skills for success:
Strong communication and change management
COVID-19 may fundamentally change the culture of the workplace and how leaders engage their people. Communication, in particular thinking through the why, who, what and how of communications is critical, especially throughout a crisis and in the months and years of recovery where there is likely to be further change and prolonged period of uncertainty.
Communication, collaboration, trust and transparency is essential for leaders to engage the hearts and kinds of their teams. Leaders need to have good communication skills focused on empathy, resilience, reassurance and direction.
What can you as an organisation or HR team do now to invest in your leaders? “To face the challenges of the future, we need to invest today in the people who will be the leaders of the future” (9)
Our leadership programs at KEASE are based on proven methodology (such as DiSC) and can be tailored to your organisation and your leaders. Our clients have seen up to a 33% increase in engagement, staff retention and productivity after completing one of our programs.
Get in touch with KEASE to understand more about how we can help you.
- Adam Grant, https://www.linkedin.com/learning/sheryl-sandberg-and-adam-grant-on-option-b-building-resilience/the-importance-of-resilience
- Study.com, https://study.com/academy/lesson/what-is-leadership-agility-definition-elements.html#:~:text=Leadership%20agility%20means%20being%20able,the%20interworking%20of%20your%20business.
- Accenture, https://www.accenture.com/au-en/insights/industrial/coronavirus-engineering-construction-impact-response
- Deloitte, https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/insights/economy/covid-19/heart-of-resilient-leadership-responding-to-covid-19.html
- Arianna Huffington
- Institute for Social and Emotional Intelligence
- Brene Brown
- PwC, https://www.pwc.com/gx/en/industries/energy-utilities-resources/publications/powering-up-the-energy–utilities-and-resources-workforce.html
- Mandarin.com.au, https://www.themandarin.com.au/137058-we-cant-let-stem-skills-become-a-casualty-of-covid-19/