Leadership skills can make a difference to your business.
Leadership qualities are the very cornerstone of success.
Almost every great accomplishment has at its core, solid leadership. When everything is going well it is leadership that keeps people from getting complacent. When things are going poorly it is leadership that guides and encourages people, it is leadership that sets the new course, and it is leadership that provides hope for positive future outcomes.
Leadership style refers to a leader’s characteristic behaviours when directing, motivating, guiding, and managing groups of people. History has shown how great leaders can inspire political movements and social change.
Great leaders can also motivate others to perform, create, and innovate. In the past, managers used to operate with a rigid, bottom-line focussed, heavy into a command-and-control style of leadership. However, in most situations that style does not work now. Values have changed.
Research by psychologist Kurt Lewin in the 1930s identified three major leadership styles:
- authoritarian (autocratic)
- participative (democratic)
- delegative (laissez-faire).
While subsequent research has identified other more defined types of leadership, this early work provided a catalyst for the identification of other characteristic patterns of leadership including the transformational leadership style which is often identified as the single most effective style.
Leaders adopting the transformational leadership style tend to be emotionally intelligent, energetic, and passionate.
They are not only committed to helping the organization achieve its goals, but also to helping group members fulfil their potential. Research shows that this style of leadership results in higher performance, more improved group satisfaction than other leadership styles as well as leading to improved well-being among group members.
However, it is not easy being a leader, especially these days when we are living in times of continual and, at times, exponential change.
The social and economic crisis caused by the current global pandemic is an extreme but relevant example of the types of challenges leaders face today.
Like any other crisis, the disruptive force and major social impacts were entirely unexpected and during the early days of the pandemic the most urgent objective of leaders would be to safeguard the future of the organisation and by adopting a more autocratic approach, making quick decisions for today while also considering what will be the “next normal” for tomorrow.
The “next normal” is the opportunity for organisations to emerge from this crisis stronger than before and in the post-pandemic world, smart leaders will need to adapt their leadership style.
Covid-19 has changed what business leadership looks like now, and for the foreseeable future. The more directive leadership style adopted in the early days of the pandemic would be perceived as an overly directive, actionist one-leader show during business as usual.
Leaders will need to be flexible enough to adapt leadership style to the situation as it evolves.
- An article in Forbes Magazine describes the “7 Leadership Traits For The Post COVID-19 Workplace” required to restore and revive stressed and flailing supply chains, product lines even entire industries” as being:
- Candour/openness/honesty – Possibly the best antidote for a workplace climate of anxiety and cynicism is openness and honesty. People respond so much better to the known (even if the news is not great) than the unknown (which tends to fuel more anxiety) or even worse misleading half-truths or irresponsible optimism (which can irreparably damage trust long term).
- Regular, reliable fact-based communication – regular, reliable fact-based communication goes a long way to bringing people together and reducing workplace anxiety.
- Empathy – some people are still feeling fragile and concerned about Covid-19. There has been a loss of sense of community and cohesion among staff from the isolation experienced e.g., loss of shared office space when working from home and ongoing concerns about things like job security and sick leave balances. Even just providing some heartfelt encouragement and recognition for a job well done goes a long way.
Intergenerational and managing a remote and distributed workforce – Gen Zers and millennials require a different style of management (ethical).
- Virtual and distributed teams also require a different style of leadership. You still need to bring these employees together regularly or work streams may fall apart.
- Flexibility and adaptability – Covid-19 has taught us that businesses need to be flexible and adaptable to changing situations. Faced with unprecedented uncertainty, leaders need to avoid the temptation to “stick with the decision” and change course if necessary.
- Humility / modesty – whether its knowledge related to public health, statistics, human resources or even legal issues, leaders will undoubtedly find themselves needing to rely on expertise that they do not themselves have to make the best decisions for the broader organisation. As a result, humility is a huge asset. It takes a strong leader to respond to a difficult question with “I don’t know, but I’ll find out”.
- Active listening – while leaders certainly need to make hard decisions that will not, please everyone, making well informed decisions is still key. Indeed, there is a difference between listening and waiting to talk and for many leaders, their ability to shift gears into “listening to understand” versus “listening to respond” will be a key ingredient for their success.
Smart leaders need to adapt and be prepared to change their leadership style in the post-pandemic world and as Michael Dell (the founder of Dell Computers at age 20) said “I’ve learned that you have to take advantage of change and not let it take advantage of you”.