Breakdown? No, breakthrough! These famous lines from the film Jerry McGuire best summarize the incredible opportunity the coronavirus pandemic has unfolded for global leadership. Undoubtedly, this age of pink-slip, salary cuts and crashing economies is something everyone –from a young executive to a CEO—were unprepared for. But it’s also given leaders across the world a big reboot. The learnings from yesterday will not work in a future that is yet to unfold. The future like the virus will mutate.
Transitioning from real to virtual space has come with its own set of challenges. It has skewed the work-life balance, added responsibilities, and also posed a big question—how to drive teams, reinvent business models and create happy workplaces and simultaneously ride the digital wave that corona has ushered? How does the leadership boost employee morale when jobs are getting scarce? Is it time to redefine goals with a more practical and humane approach?
Today, ambiguous challenges like the coronavirus pandemic which pose great economic and health risks are highlighting a new fact—its critical for leaders to have an immediate response to any unforeseen danger. A ‘New Reality’ is dawning. This reality needs a new leader- vulnerable yet brave, unconventional yet a pragmatist, driven by market forces yet conscious of consumption and its impact on the world. This is where vulnerability has emerged as the new superpower in the new reality leadership. Instead of blame, defensiveness and shock, the brave leaders choose to share their concerns and openly seek help. These leaders have unspooled the formula key to success—forging genuine bonds, being cool with not having all solutions, cementing trust and transparency to making the impossible possible. Because this value chain inspires loyalty, fosters creativity and breaks all barriers. They choose not to be ‘demi-Gods’ or authority figures. Rather, they are influencers of a different kind.
Here are some leadership lessons that have emerged from the pandemic:
- Time to Create: The pandemic has brought people closer and motivated them to explore unchartered waters. People and organizations are becoming more adaptive, embracing cultural diversity, willing to manage risks. It means organizations need to seize this moment to understand and evaluate how unique talents, functions, contributions and innovations can be better utilized. Do organizations need to upend structuring/roles/ redefine teams and create new business models? It is a time to question everything. As Marshall Goldsmith famously wrote “What got us here will not get us there.”
- Communicate with Compassion: The virtual world may be tech-driven, but the art of simple and impactful communication still counts. It is critical in driving teams, meeting business goals, and collaboration. Reach to the heart and remember listening is the most powerful communication ever invented.
- Be there for the team: Empathy and emotional intelligence have emerged as the new game changers for workplaces and workforces. Every voice and opinion matters in the new reality. How do people relate with their teams, support each other through challenges and wins are at the centerstage now. How are employees coping with WFH realities? Leaders need to be more human and share concerns, devise new ways to help employees cope and share their fears too! Also, it’s not easy going returning to a workplace in a covid-infested world. An open dialogue and communication, encouraging feedback and suggestions, high quality practices for emotional & physical well-being of employees must be a priority.
- Embrace ambiguity with a smile: It happens, and it will, make this your philosophy. There will not be clear answers to anything, anymore. Leaders will have to evaluate risks on-the-go and juggle between different, often conflicting, decisions and trust their instinct on the right course of action. The more leaders and organization learn to be comfortable with ambiguity the faster they will be able to mitigate the impact and seize the opportunity that the new world will present.
If the new reality organizations and leadership must succeed, they must look beyond creating great interiors/exteriors. Rather, the thrust should be upon adding and acknowledging value to every role—big or small. The New Reality leadership is about maximizing the human spirit’s creativity, talent and positivity that can outclass any digital creation in workplace and beyond.