Lessons learned from the pandemic (part 1) – leadership strengths

Written by Poppy Boothroyd, R&D Consultant, Global R&D

Last November, Talogy released an international research study that looked at leadership in the future world of work. From this we are now bringing you a leadership blog series, drawing on key aspects of the research and highlighting important takeaways.

First up is a reflection on leadership during the height of the pandemic. Here we focus on the organizational view (based on structured interviews with 35 HR leaders from a range of countries and industry sectors). So how do they think their leaders measured up? And what are the key takeaway messages?

Organizations highlighted several strengths of effective leaders during the pandemic, with many of these being consistent with the views of employees and leaders themselves:

  1. Showing compassion and empathy, with more concern for people’s well-being

    This was the most prominent theme. Effective leaders took more time to understand what people were going through both personally and at work.They sought to understand the ‘whole person’ and in doing so showed genuine care for their employees.

    Key takeaway:

    To maintain this more human approach to leadership, organizations feel leaders should look to improve their own self-awareness and resilience. This in turn should heighten sensitivity to the well-being and individual circumstances of their team members.

  2. Staying connected with their teams

    Organizations also felt their best leaders stayed connected with their teams and were visible to team members, rather than using the pandemic as ’an excuse not to talk to their team.’ More frequent effort was made to ask team members how they were feeling, as well as opportunities for Q&A sessions.

    Key takeaway:

    Leaders should ensure they invest sufficient time in connecting with individuals on a 1:1 basis, as well as maximizing opportunities to connect as a group and build collaboration. Younger employees are especially keen to be visible to their leaders and not forgotten about.

  3. Clear direction and vision

    The uncertainty of the pandemic meant it was more important than ever for leaders to be transparent in their communication and wherever possible articulate a clear direction and vision. Organizations generally felt their leaders navigated the complexities of the pandemic well and provided a clarity of purpose to their employees that enabled them to be as productive as possible.

    Key takeaway:

    Providing clear direction and vision doesn’t always have to be in the form of a well-presented roadmap. It can simply be stating the information available at the time and immediate priorities to focus on, so that everyone feels informed and included.

Bonus additional strengths:

Separate to the above three strengths, HR leaders also highlighted how the best leaders in their organization had demonstrated rapid decision making during the pandemic, streamlining processes and removing bureaucracy to facilitate quick change under pressurized conditions.

They also noted that effective leaders were more authentic – “not knowing all the answers and being comfortable saying this.” This call for humility is poignant and requires leaders to shift from having a heroic mindset to being open-minded and inclusive of all views and talent that surrounds them.

Key takeaway:

Organizations made consistent reference to the pace of digitalization, with many having to adapt their digital approaches quickly during the pandemic. Leaders need to be agile in their implementation of new technologies and automation in a way which optimizes their organization’s business model. This includes leaders increasing their own digital fluency or empowering those with more technical capability.

While these are welcome findings and show many leaders rose to the occasion when circumstances were tough, there were a number of findings where improvements can still be made. Stay tuned for the next installment of our blog series where we take a look at the developmental areas that will require improvement in the coming months and years.


Leading in the future world of work

As the world of work continues to change, the role and attributes of leaders continues to be debated and reviewed.

What are the most important changes and opportunities brought on by Covid-19, resulting in the biggest global leadership challenge in decades?

Download our research report now and explore our insights into four critical leadership themes:

  • The impact of leadership on organizational performance
  • The impact of leadership on the employee experience
  • Lessons learned from leadership in the pandemic
  • Future of leadership – critical challenges and responses
Download Now