It is almost 12 months ago that I wrote an article about post-pandemic leadership. At the time, we were thinking about how to come out of lockdown, rebuild and start again, picking up from where we left off. Little did we expect that 12 months later and with further lockdowns, that the COVID19 pandemic would be much more long-lasting and far-reaching than many initially thought.
The good news, however, is that with the dedicated work within the Biotech and Pharma sectors, vaccines were successfully developed that will allow life to return to as normal as possible (Here, I just want to congratulate the incredible work of the team within Oxford University and AstraZeneca for the vaccine development!).
Business leaders have weathered many storms
Over the last 12 months, business leaders have weathered (and continue to weather) many storms. Not only is the economic outlook different, but daily life for those working has seen, for the most part, a seismic shift that requires a different set of leadership skills to manage. The Black Lives Matters movement also brought into the spotlight the lack of diversity and inclusivity across all industry sectors for women and those with a BAME background.
An article that I read in 2020 from weforum.org included a very powerful statement – “Leadership means no-one is left behind.” This highlights the need for leaders to think differently about how they approach diversity within their organisations. This isn’t about ratios and percentages; this is about recognising that people of different background bring different and fresh points of view, that they are included and made to feel that they make a welcome contribution. Leadership now is executing a strategy that looks for the best people from all backgrounds and creates an environment where they are valued.
Some businesses have chosen to re-open to office staff, but many are still working remotely, which means that leaders need to consider how they work with these employees – leading a remote team requires different attributes that focus on enabling and empowering these team members not micro-managing them. They also need to consider how much contact is required. Some people may not see anyone from one day to another, so one to one meetings and informal catch-ups are incredibly important, as is checking in with employees. With an increase in poor mental health for many working from home, being able to listen effectively, communicate, empathise, and motivate is incredibly important to the remote leader.
Continual learning has proven to have been a positive of the pandemic, especially for those on Furlough. As both businesses and individuals need to become more agile and look for ways to diversify or pivot in times of adversity, a positive attitude to continual learning will not only help with the personal development of staff but will allow for positive change within business because we all recognise that more than often, change comes with a new set of skills requirements.
The lessons that leaders have learned that have been borne out of the pandemic, such as preparing for the continuation of a remote workforce, learning that diversity and inclusion is not just about numbers, but about different and new points of view, remaining flexible to change, and promoting a culture of continual learning will ensure the success and growth of organisations across all sectors.