Jacques Quinio, European Solutions Director, Talent Management at Right Management
The expectations placed on business leaders have changed significantly over the past year. The need for resilient and impactful leadership has never been more important as UK businesses deal with the increased challenges and accelerated transformation caused by both the pandemic and Brexit.
With recent research showing as many as 67% of UK employee respondents feel that remote working has impacted their mental health, good leadership now has a much wider remit than delivering the business strategy, and can be key to easing the anxieties of a workforce.
This piece will explore how leadership has changed during the last year, as well as how businesses can take advantage of this shift and encourage their employees to grow and develop leadership skills in the process.
The need for a change in leadership style isn’t only the result of external challenges such as the pandemic, but is also due to the internal changes faced by businesses worldwide. Digital transformation became a necessity for many businesses to ensure a smooth transition to remote working in 2020, and now means that organisations increasingly rely on technology such as enterprise applications and collaboration tools in order to complete tasks and business projects.
Remote working, combined with the mass adoption of multiple digital tools and platforms in the workplace, means traditional management styles may no longer suffice. For the past year, leaders and managers have been unable to address the workforce in-person, monitor them as closely, or catch-up with individuals face-to-face.
This has caused a shift when it comes to the visibility of leadership in the workplace. Traditional competencies like empathy and motivation are as important as ever, but require alternative modes of expression due to the shift to online communication channels. Similarly, the way managers solve problems and exercise initiative has had to adapt to ensure they remain effective.
With remote workers still adjusting to their new environment and facing challenges like burnout and disengagement, compassion has become a key leadership skill. Leaders must ensure they’re able to understand and accommodate the individual challenges employees are facing in their lives. Not only does this help employees feel valued, it helps them to maintain a work/life balance – something that can prove difficult for many while working from home.
Changing the culture
Organisations need to embrace leadership development to equip leaders and managers with the confidence and skills they need to navigate ongoing uncertainty.
Fortunately, over recent months training and learning opportunities for remote workers have improved as businesses make deliberate strides to provide development opportunities for staff, according to Office of National Statistics data. It is vital that in their learning & development curriculum for employees, leadership training is not overlooked.
Receiving regular development provides leaders and managers with the chance to undertake self-reflection, receive feedback on their skills, and set personal goals for their professional development, which can be used as a motivator as well as an indicator for individual success.
Such training shouldn’t just be offered to those in management positions but also targeted at employees with potential to enter leadership roles. In this way, businesses can inspire more junior talent within the workforce and advance their succession planning strategy by creating a steady pipeline for future leadership roles in the company.
Preparing for what’s ahead
With the pace of change showing no sign of slowing, leadership training plays an important role in businesses ensuring their management teams are equipped to provide support, regardless of the circumstances. It gives them the foundational knowledge they need to adapt to remote working by teaching them how to exercise traditional traits in new ways. It also provides an example to junior employees, which will in turn forge out a new generation of leaders equipped for the remote working world.