“Great leaders believe they work for their team; average leaders believe their team works for them.”
There is a big difference between a boss and a leader. You can tell which is which as one inspires fear, takes all the credit for successes, and heaps blame on others for failures… while the other generates enthusiasm, fixes problems, and shows everyone else how success is achieved.
In today’s blog, we’re discussing how the global pandemic has changed leadership.
The quick spread of COVID-19 across the face of the planet, and the subsequent harsh conditions put in place by governments around the world in the form of mandatory isolations, restriction on travel, and new rules for both social gatherings and businesses, have really thrown a spanner in the works – to say the least.
When your world is thrown upside down though, you just find another way to get things done – adapt and overcome, or refuse to change and perish. Leaders from varying walks of life had to think of new ways to learn and work, to maintain normal life while reducing the risk and spread of infection.
It’s no small feat either – just look at how the face of business and school has changed from face-to-face meetings and classrooms full of kids, to home offices, zoom meetings, and learning via a 100% digital medium.
The genie is now out of the bottle, and there’s really no way the business community can go back to the way things were – even after the global pandemic has run its course.
Certain questions have to be asked here. Are people really more productive in an office environment, versus working from the comfort of their own homes? Is there a need to have everyone working full time in an office, or can at least half of all logged hours be done from home? But also, can the reduced overheads from not having to house these staff all under the same roof be used to offset the drop in business and profits as a result of COVID-19?
The shift to remote working is something that the stereotypical boss of the old guard would have turned their nose up at, but has been something that has seen increased momentum by more employee-serving leaders – even before the viral outbreak.
Companies with a more open and supportive work environment have arguably seen substantially more success than more traditional companies, where leaders focus on employee happiness and satisfaction primarily – as it directly translates to increased productivity. Those at the executive level are no longer corporate slaves, “company men” who sacrifice relationships with their spouses and family for the sake of their careers. This is the new age, where family is everything.
There are a few ways that the worst global pandemic in living memory has changed the face of leadership forever.
1 – Fear Is No Longer A Weapon:
Leading with fear is now well and truly a relic from the past. In a world full of fear, full of people worrying about the health of loved ones, if they’re job is safe, and whether they’ll have a home to go to – it’s clear that the fear-based leadership still clung onto by the old guard is something truly archaic in the modern day.
The businesses who have survived are those with true leadership. That realise that human beings make mistakes, that external stresses affect work performance, that adapting to change is something that takes time – and not instantaneous.
Companies who once viewed servitude from their leaders as a wasteful endeavour that doesn’t immediately ramp up the revenue are now money-first companies who are really feeling the pinch.
On the other hand, companies who have leaders who put the wellbeing of their people first are finding that their employees are more willing to adopt huge changes like working from home, or are just happier and more productive in general thanks to a less hostile work environment – a safe haven in an increasingly hostile world.
2 – Learn to Ask for Advice:
Throwing back to our example, a boss is someone who always knows best and who dictates terms to those under their leadership. There’s this age-old question – do you ask for permission to do something, or forgiveness after the fact? The truth is that there’s a third and infinitely better option – just ask for advice!
The way forward is to inspire a company culture made up of autonomous teams that operate not according to company mandates, but through an advice seeking process that does away with hard reporting and instead encourages employees to seek out experienced people to learn what they can about a particular project.
The flipside is that while team autonomy comes with a certain level of freedom, it also comes with great responsibility. By seeking advice from many people, you experience different points of view so you can make a more informed decision, as well as having a broader overview of the impacts of that decision on the business as a whole.
A two-way street between the leader and the team, where advice is shared, versus just giving orders, increases the inter-personality of the team – each person gains a better understanding of each team member’s thought process and how to best utilise their skillsets.
3 – Shared Values Over Mission Statements:
In a similar vein, issuing mission statements plays into this element of control providing by fear mongering. A rigid document that isn’t relative to all situations is something that is quickly discarded by employees.
The better alternative is to instead share values, and guidelines on how those values fit into the business and into the way each employee conducts themselves. Difficult decisions that have to be made in reaction to changing events during the pandemic create fear in both leaders and employees when they have to resonate within the confined box of a mission statement.
Shared values on the other hand inspire accountability due to their organic nature. When used as a deciding factor in the recruitment process, you ensure that all employees are on the same page and can actually come together in a time of crisis.
They’re a bit like bamboo in that they’re a strong building material, while still being flexible – where employees can be trusted to work from home for instance and use their autonomy to manage workloads and deliver quality.
4 – Stop Holding the Reins:
The day of the CEO or board of directors making all the decisions for a company are coming to an end. There has been a conscious shift, a movement to allow team leaders and senior staff further down the org chart to be actively involved in not only the decision-making process, but having the authority to make the judgement call on a certain issue without running it up the flagpole.
The stereotypical old school boss with the “one ship, one captain” mindset fears that without a centralised decision-making process that ultimately requires their decision – the company will fall to pieces.
This is far from the truth. So long as you’ve hired the right people that fit into the core values of the company, you should be able to trust them to make the right call and fix a problem much faster than escalating it up the chain of command.
Extending this mentality out to customers, less and less clients are asking for the cookie cutter solution and instead prefer a tailored solution that is bespoke to suit their particular needs. Tailored solutions don’t work in a dictatorship.
5 – Adapt to Globalism:
Just looking after your own backyard is such an old way of thinking. What happens around the world has either a direct or indirect effect on your business as a whole – we’re living in a global community where changes on a global level lead to unforeseen domino effects.
By looking outside your local talent pool, there’s a good chance you’ll find that diamond in the rough. Cross-disciplinary teams are productive teams, as the differing background of the team members only add experience and outside the box thinking to solutions.
By seeking the advice of regional offices in other countries, or reaching out to overseas companies, better decisions can be made about how to move forward in relation to a pandemic-induced change to how your business operates.
COVID-19 is something that has decimated some countries, while remaining relatively in check in other, more isolated ones. How other companies in foreign nations have managed their outbreaks, while establishing as much productivity as they can, should be taken into consideration for how you move forward as a result of updated health advice, government issue restrictions, etc.
As we said – adapt and overcome, or refuse to change and perish. The global pandemic has all but forced the shift from the dictator type boss calling all the shots and ruling through fear, to a leader who puts their people first – and isn’t afraid to show their vulnerability by asking for advice, and sharing the decision making amongst their management team.
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