The last two years not only brought about a radical shift across all facets of business and companies but have also led to a revamp in the leadership skillset. As HR leaders played a pivotal role in spearheading their organizations through the uncertainty, stress, and change, they developed and defined a new core set of skills which is going to be a prerequisite of emerging HR leaders in the second year of the pandemic and beyond.
What are these skill sets? What are some of the old paradigms that leaders need to let go to be in sync with our changing realities? In an exclusive interaction with us, Amogh Deshmukh, Managing Director DDI, sheds light on the expected skill set of emerging leaders and the future of leadership in a virtual world.
Newer work models have emerged in 2021. What do you think are some key characteristics which emerging talent leaders specifically need to possess to lead successfully?
The first thing which emerging leaders will have to learn is hire smart; they will have to start building their interviewing skills to find a right fit. As we move forward WFH will continue to be an integral way of working and employees will get into mixed models of working from home and office as per their convenience. This will also prove cost effective for organizations. So it requires a most thorough check on the right fit to the organization and job requirements. While productivity has gone up in many industries, it has also come down in many. Picking the right fit and having the knack for identifying it is going to become extremely important.
The second thing is the focus on empathy and EI. While they have been a topic of discussion for over a decade now, unfortunately empathy needs to be practiced. What we see is people are not practicing demonstration of empathy enough. As a leader, it has become very important how you care about employee well-being (both physical and mental). Leaders need to seek feedback on a regular basis as to how they are demonstrating it and make adjustments.
The next important thing to focus on is the ability to engage, connect, coach and influence. It is very different in the virtual world and many are struggling to do it on account of lack of planning.
Most people will take these words on the face of it, thinking they will happen in the flow of work by themselves. But there has to be an execution plan.
What are some of the workplace changes which leaders will need to lead their organizations through in order to be agile and future-proof?
WFH will continue for some time and organizations need to discover the benefits of it. It is going to have a ripple effect on the corporate real estate industry as the leasing industry might face a challenge. This could result in huge savings for organizations as far as real estate and travel costs are concerned.
Also, as the workplace changes, the AI and IT disruption will be important as the working mode for many people changes. Omni channel marketing will become very important in this scenario.
What are some of the old paradigms that leaders need to let go to be in sync with our changing realities?
The leaders’ perception that team engagement can only happen in-person is a myth that got busted in the last two years and the leaders will have to let go of it. Still we see many leaders insisting upon their teams to come to office to engage effectively even if it’s not required.
People putting in long hours to be successful is another part of the old paradigm that needs to be challenged now. Because in WFH, boundaries are diffused and how you allow a good balance between work and life is important.
Another important paradigm that needs to be broken is that only vertical growth is a true career aspiration for everyone. Gen Z and Gen Y are looking for purposeful growth; they don’t care much about vertical growth as long as they are able to engage in a meaningful manner. So leaders will have to learn new skills as to how to engage with them in a meaningful manner.
What are some of the trends around leadership that DDI has observed during this year?
We have observed a couple of trends as part of our research as to where leaders require help. If you look at the matrix below, the most overlooked gaps are around leading virtually, driving inclusion, business acumen and leading across generations. What we noted is that organizations start developing business acumen in leaders when it’s actually too late. It needs to be developed from the early days of their career itself.
If you look at the urgent gaps around building talent, digital acumen, managing change, strategic thinking and influencing, most organizations are not doing enough to address them.
With businesses striving hard to bounce from the crisis, what do you think is the future of leadership in a virtual world?
The answer lies in addressing the urgent gaps mentioned above around building talent, digital acumen, managing change, strategic thinking and influencing. The few things that I would like to add further are leading virtual teams, coaching and empathy and building partnerships.
What is your one piece of advice to emerging talent leaders of today?
One thing emerging leaders need to stop is trying to manage things from behind the desk and lead from the front.
They need to spend more time interacting with teams, with peers, and other departments. It is about being present and working with people rather than sitting behind your desk and working. It is going to be difficult in a virtual world as you can’t just walk up to someone for advice. They need to start focusing on the right thing and not get into management from behind the desk.
To do this, as they say, feedback is the fodder of champions; so accepting and actioning feedback is important. In order to interact and be effective as a leader, they have to imbibe in their DNA the mechanism of accepting and auctioning feedback.
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