Strategy & LeadershipWhat does tomorrow’s leadership look like?

What does tomorrow's leadership look like?

The world of business is changing, and naturally, so are the requirements of good leadership. However, organizations must quickly decipher what these requirements are, and how to implement them. Heidi Lynne, writer, leadership expert and HRD Thought Leader, outlines precisely what the leaders of tomorrow should look like.

2020 has upended businesses and exposed poor leadership behavior around the globe. Prior to this pandemic, there were few good leaders in the workplace, with many being overshadowed by poor ones. The poor leaders were known for their false promises, bullying nature and abuse of power. The challenge with those in positions of power is many of them have never received formal leadership training. Therefore, they’re mimicking what they’ve seen from those who have managed them, simply or doing what they know and feel to be right.

Here are six leadership skills that tomorrow’s leaders must embody in order to keep their team and organization functioning effectively, equitably and successfully.

Empathetic leadership

Everyone has been impacted by this pandemic in a different way. It’s unfair to assume everyone’s situation is the same, or that they didn’t experience some upset. Therefore, the benefits of demonstrating empathy in leadership are limitless. Not only does it increase employee loyalty, but it strengthens relationships, engagement, productivity and performance. In addition, it supports the wellbeing of your team and allows you to connect with them on a deeper level by sharing how you’ve been impacted and reminding them that you’re human.

The leaders of tomorrow know that when they’re empathetic and meet employees halfway, their employees are more likely to go above and beyond for them.

For instance, Matt Erhard, managing partner, Summit Search Group, said: “Leaders who are more in tune with their employees’ emotional and psychological needs have been better able to guide their companies through this crisis.”

Act quickly and thoughtfully to unexpected change

The world of business is always evolving. No longer can leaders operate on the mentality of ‘this is the way we’ve always done things’. Frankly, the way they’ve always done things has changed, primarily due to COVID-19, shifts in the social and political climate, and employees exposing employers for their unethical and discriminatory behaviors.

The leader of tomorrow needs to be able to act quickly and thoughtfully to unexpected changes while keeping their employees at the core of their decisions. A successful leader is one who is able to stay on top of trends and keep their skills up to date.

Lynell Ross, founder and managing editor, Zivadream, said: “People that rigidly adhere to rules and try to keep things the same are often ones without vision, that get left behind.”

Furthermore, adapting to technology and current trends is crucial to keeping business relevant. This pandemic has plunged companies around the world into the digital revolution faster than they could prepare for. This was a true test to see which leaders were able to adapt and use agility and which ones who were incapable of re-strategizing quickly. 

Challenge the status quo

For too long, leaders have been avoiding difficult conversations and voicing their stance for social and human rights movements. Their greatest fear is that by doing so they would create a divide within the workplace. However, by not having these conversations and pretending injustice doesn’t exist, they’re silently siding with the oppressor.  

Racism, sexism, discrimination and harassment are problematic across all industries. Minority individuals are victims of unconscious bias, discrimination and the ability to advance within the company. The leaders of tomorrow are not afraid to have difficult conversations and challenge the status quo to bring more equality and equity into their workplace. Disrupting current workplace practices and conventional thinking helps build an inclusive culture that’s committed to positive change and identifying new and better ways of doing things. 

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Moreover, the leaders of tomorrow know that vulnerability is what will help strengthen the connection between them and their team. Commonly, leaders have remained emotionless and lacked vulnerability. Authenticity and vulnerability go hand in hand. Authentic leaders are ones who are open and honest about their values, beliefs and mistakes. Furthermore, they’re not afraid to be vulnerable and show emotion. 

Strive for an inclusive culture

To cultivate an inclusive culture, leaders must break free of office cliques and actively work to make sure everyone feels included. The leaders of tomorrow are more vigilant about addressing unhealthy behaviors instead of turning a blind eye to them. Building an inclusive culture is equivalent to creating a safe space for every employee. Employees need to not only feel like they belong but they also need to feel comfortable voicing concerns and reporting incidents without fearing the consequences.

Fostering a sense of community makes employees feel more connected and less isolated. This is especially important for remote workers. Prior to the pandemic, remote workers were abandoned and received little support. Now that nearly everyone has had to experience working remotely, leaders are much more cognizant of how easy it is to feel removed from the team.

Communicate frequently and consistently

Managers who struggled to communicate prior to the pandemic were unable to escape their inadequate leadership skills from being exposed. Those who failed to check-in, share updates or keep the team engaged through increased communication witnessed a rapid decline in the collaborative ability of their teams. Client results were impacted and it became clear which teams had strong leaders and which ones had weak ones. 

The leaders of tomorrow should communicate frequently and consistently. As teams have been disbanded due to COVID, they increased communication and worked to keep each and every employee engaged through check-ins, 1-2-1 meetings and generally more frequent correspondence. Similarly, they’re constantly seeking and giving feedback for the betterment of individuals as well as the team as a whole.

The leaders of tomorrow practice what they preach and lead by example. They set expectations and hold everyone, including themselves, accountable. They know their employees are looking to them to handle situations and react appropriately. For this reason, inconsistency is no longer tolerable and erodes trust within the team.

Bounce back quickly

This pandemic has undoubtedly been a setback for many. In the world of business, change is constant and if companies want to thrive, they need leaders who can handle what’s thrown at them and bounce back quickly

The leaders of tomorrow are resilient and are using the hard lessons of COVID-19 to better future-proof their business. This also involves helping their team better manage their stress, acknowledge their difficulties, and reflect on mistakes or consider things could’ve been handled differently.

It’s important to not dwell on mistakes that have been made in the past, but consider how to use those mistakes for future improvement. Offering a final thought, Erhard said: “Leaders who thrive in the future will know how to stay flexible without losing sight of the company’s core values and identity.”

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