Most of the leaders we come across are not born into leadership with extraordinary skills; instead, they develop skills and become influential leaders through years of experience and practice. They also accept that their leadership style could potentially evolve over time as circumstances change. Like any high-level athlete, who can adapt to the game's changing pace, leaders must be willing to remain adaptable to the changing business environment and demonstrate their newly acquired skill sets.
During the pandemic, leaders displayed skills like emotional intelligence (the ability to relate well to those around them and navigate relationships better) and resilience (the ability to get back up after being knocked down) to tackle the daily-changing environment. But the realities of today's hybrid workplace are quite different from what they were a year ago. And effective leaders must add to that the need to stay innovative in the competitive global marketplace, which requires them to manage diverse teams in both virtual and office 2.0 set ups.
This scenario has given rise to the need for a new generation of leaders with enhanced skill sets. Let us look at some specific skills and mindsets every leader needs to succeed in this new hybrid ecosystem.
- Awareness: It is the ability to sense and understand other people's reactions within a social setting. When leaders are fully aware of themselves (who they are as a person, how they respond to others/situations), they will readily — and consistently — adopt new behaviors. Leaders with greater self-awareness tend to depend less on others' opinions and take better control over day-to-day situations. To attain this competency, one needs to have a growth mindset, be committed to continuous learning, and have a naturally curious perspective.
- Agility: Just like organizational agility is crucial to business success, leaders also need to be more agile. It's not just about how they make smart and effective decisions in a fast-paced and changing environment, but also how they stay focused on being efficient today and in the future. This skill set gives leaders the superpower to unleash all other competencies in response to various environments. To attain true agility, leaders need personal resilience and the ability to tune their leadership style to be more flexible based on each particular moment. The skill gives them the way to align, equip, and sustain change positively for their teams.
- Authenticity: Ann Fudge says, "Authenticity and knowing who you are is fundamental to being an effective and long-standing leader." We can take away from this quote that you will fail when you try to lead like someone else. There is no rocket science here. People will quickly recognize whether you’re being true to yourself or not. When you are authentic, you tend to inspire inclusively with emotional intelligence and strategic transparency. Authentic leaders engage and inspire others with integrity, intention, and a shared goal. But this competency requires courage, a strong sense of purpose, and willingness to be vulnerable.
- Accountability: Even as a leader, you are answerable to higher authorities. But you are accountable to yourself first. Did you take ownership of that recent project failure? Were you honest about the likelihood of delivering on commitments? Answering these questions while being true to yourself will also promote accountability in your team, enabling a growth mindset. To become change agents, leaders need accountability and should demonstrate a healthy sense of ownership to empower others to do the same.
Every organization's success today depends on how well its leaders are equipped with relevant skills to lead a hybrid workforce. Leaders equipped with these new skills will create an ecosystem that oversees everyone's best interest and instills a sense of trust among those still working from home and those who will be stepping back in.