When the context is changing the way leaders behave and execute changes. The basic foundation of leadership– concern for people, empathy, connectivity, communication– these are static.These don’t really change. Depending on the scenario respective leadership qualities are highlighted.
Today what comes to the forefront, based on interactions and observations, is empowerment. This will come into play in leadership hugely.
Teams will be working in small numbers and independently. In such a scenario leaders will not lead, they will only become facilitators and research providers. This is not a type of role that many leaders will relish. Leaders want to be in charge. They want to direct people.
We have eulogised participative leadership and democratic leadership and consensus building leadership. Whilst these are great, there is a time and place for these styles to be in operation. In a crisis situation leadership needs to be authoritative and take charge. At other times providing a direction helps.
Given that we are heading towards small teams working independently, leadership needs to provide clear direction on the task, clarity on performance measurement and then monitoring how the individuals, in a team, are managing and performing and providing them the safety net of interaction and guidance.
Today, in the post-pandemic stage, the ask from leaders is to ensure survival of the business and turnarounds, as maybe applicable. What this does is it removes the facility of time for leaders to build up interaction and understanding with teams. This is a natural progression given the ask of the hour. Leaders need to be able to gauge this requirement. It’s important to be able to know what is a priority for the business and direct on the basis of that.
In doing this another aspect that comes into the picture is the collaborative skill of the leader. Looking at how Google & Amazon collaborated during the pandemic, it clearly establishes that there is no permanent rival or competitor. This brings to front that leaders will have to have the ability to adapt and collaborate as the situation demands.
Which will bring up a new skill– crisis intelligence skill. How fast can you gather up information and connect the dots together and stop the ball rolling. Earlier crisis management used to be reactive where leadership is concerned. Now what becomes important in leadership is being able to see a trend or pattern and prevent a crisis from occurring. Doing this would involve adapting to the digital landscape and being able to read the right data. All of this leads to a whole new set of skills being required in leadership.
This is not just for the top of the pyramid i.e. the C-level, it includes functional leaders throughout the organizational hierarchy. In order to have this in play the Human Resource function will have to have better understanding of the business first, rather than its HR functions.
Why this is so is because there is no more long-term planning. Given the current scenario everything has gone short-term. That makes is necessary for the HR function to collaboratively partner the line managers and work together in terms of the human resource required for business goal achievement within a limited period of time.
The only way to tackle uncertainty is by being proactive. Whilst all around lay-offs are appearing it’s critical for businesses to keep an eye on the skill-sets required to rebound. It’s not just about surviving but also being able to have the resources to bounce back. To do that leaders will have to become and be agile and think in short-steps.