Leadership today has evolved significantly from post 9/11 to post-Covid pandemic. The landscape has changed, but many of the core principles of sound leadership still apply. But in recent years, especially, the need for change from a command-and-control type leadership method to a more comprehensive, strategic model that leverages “soft skills” to help understand and empower your workforce has emerged.
Post-pandemic leadership presents new challenges, and it is not all about getting the job done quick — it’s about strategically leading the workforce by providing purpose, direction, and motivation through better understanding of the feelings and needs of everyone on the team. In this article, I will discuss some ingredients necessary for developing strategic leadership in a post-pandemic world.
The fascination with the subject of leadership is all around us. We wake up every day, turn on the television, computer, or open an app on our smart phones and discover the actions of leaders all over the world. Everything we do is impacted by some type of leadership, whether at work or with family and in our social lives. Leadership is a fundamental element of the human condition.
We can all relate to past experiences in which we have had been under great leadership, which often creates loyalty and the motivation to “go to bat”, so to speak, for that leader or manager. These are the types of inspirational people who can bring out the best in us.
In contrast, many of us have also had the experience of working under terrible, ineffective leaders, some of whom we probably couldn’t wait to see fail. As the saying goes, people don’t leave bad companies, they leave bad leaders. It is important to ask yourself, which kind of these leaders are you? Which type of leader do you aim to be?
Through the last 30 years, I have had the privilege to be in leadership positions and have made it a purpose to get to know each and every one of my teams. I’ve made the effort to understand their individual concerns, needs and feelings. In doing this, I was able to better understand where my employees were in each of their professional growth and development objectives and how I could help them grow in their roles and remove the roadblocks to success. In creating an environment of inclusion and open communication, everyone on the team has a sense of ownership and feels like a part of any success that’s achieved.
Effective leaders must be willing to conduct a self-assessment or inventory of their own strengths and weaknesses. One way to do this is finding a peer to act as a sort of “accountability partner” who is honest and not afraid to tell you the areas that need improvement.
It can be a very humbling and rewarding process if you truly apply yourself to the art of self-improvement.
The next area to focus on is training, both for personal and professional development. In the past companies could just go out and recruit talent, but the Covid pandemic has altered the landscape significantly.
In today’s workforce, there isn’t a shortage of available manpower. There’s a shortage on the knowledge side — basically, what amounts to a skills gap. We must identify that gap and apply the correct amount of training necessary to close that gap. If employees undergo specific training, it’s up to leadership to adapt any work processes to incorporate the results of training or process improvements instead of continuing to just do things as they’ve always been done.
In other words, as your workforce gains skills and experience, your company should reflect those improvements and adapt accordingly. An example of this is incorporating improved safety standards or procedures within a facility. Once the change is rolled out, you must manage that change properly and effectively.
It is imperative that you conduct a knowledge and skills assessment for everyone on your team. Identify the necessary training required to develop an even playing field for all members of the team. Prior to completion of the training, you could also have a discussion with each employee individually and reinforce what the new expectations are going to be and how each person can contribute and add value to the organization.
The final area of focus is effectively communicating the company’s (and your) vision and goals to your workforce. If the goal of leadership is to provide purpose, direction, and motivation to achieve the mission, then it must be clear and defined.
Many organizations struggle with establishing this and often lack the follow through to accomplish the goals or standard they set out to achieve. Over the last few years when I’ve toured a plant, I’ve often asked employees about their mission statement, and usually I’m met with a blank stare and shoulder shrug, implying they don’t know or they have no ownership or investment in the organization’s objectives.
Most organizations have a deeper meaning as to why they exist. This tends to influence strategy, decision-making and behaviors at executive levels but often isn’t well articulated for employees. What you call it doesn’t matter: your purpose, your why, your core belief, your center, your mission statement. What does matter is that you establish its relevance with employees in a way that makes them care more about the company and about the job they do.
It should be at the core of all your communications — a simple and inspiring message that is easy to relate to and understand. Strategy-specific messages linked to your purpose become tools to help employees connect their day-to-day efforts with the aspiration of the company.
It’s important to take off your “corporate person/executive” hat from time to time. The fact is, not many people are deeply inspired by the pieces of communication that their companies put out.
“Corporate speak” comes off hollow and lacking in meaning. The more authentic and sincere the message you deliver to your employees, the better they are at addressing challenges and opportunities in their workday and feel empowered about the direction in which you’re trying to lead them.
The roadmap to becoming a great leader involves looking inward and really understanding your core mission and the employees that will help you achieve it. Effective leadership involves exploring, opening doors, and unlocking all the potential abilities in your teams.
It requires continuous learning, self-awareness, failure, and a commitment to personal and professional growth for you and the people in your organization, and ensuring your company plays a vital role in facilitating the growth, development, and retainment of its current and future leaders in an ever evolving and complex landscape.