Lessons learned from the pandemic (part 2) – leadership development areas

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

We’ve all grown personally and professionally since the pandemic took hold over two years ago. It’s exposed what we do well and what areas could use a little TLC in our lives. Leaders were not immune to this period of growth and self-reflection. In our last blog, we covered what organizations (based on structured interviews with 35 HR leaders from a range of countries and industry sectors) classified as strengths that their leadership teams displayed during this unique and unprecedented time. In this blog, we’ll review some of the skills that fell a little short and can be improved upon moving forward.

In terms of development areas for their leaders from the pandemic, organizations identified three key themes:

  1. Managing remote/hybrid teams

    Leaders needed to get better at understanding how teams work and how to encourage collaboration and inclusivity in remote settings during the pandemic. This is less about staying connected on a personal level to each team member and more about rebuilding a sense of team community when not every member of that team is in the same room or has the same level of physical exposure to their leader or each other.

    Key takeaway:

    Although much more common than two years ago, remote/hybrid working isn’t new for some organizations. Leaders can learn from existing models, as well as simply asking their team what will work for them. For example, leaders could engage the team in agreeing on a specific day or days where everyone can be in the office together.

  2. Balancing concern for people and results

    While a human approach is important, organizations wanted their leaders to strike the right balance between being empathetic and keeping focus on targets, looking after people in a way that still helps them achieve their results. Driving organizational results and making employees feel good about their work are not mutually exclusive. In fact, both are required for truly effective, sustainable performance.

    Key takeaway:

    Organizations believe that their employees (particularly the younger generation) are looking for leaders who invest in their development and proactively provide learning opportunities. Leaders should inspire shared accountability for organizational performance and ensure every team member has an opportunity to learn and contribute in some way.

  3. Future focus

    Looking ahead, organizations want their leaders to take a long-term, strategic approach to future changes, to respond in sustainable ways, and avoid focusing only on immediate or short-term targets. The pandemic caused many to be reactive, but the best leaders were proactive, remained calm, and kept a balanced outlook.

    Key takeaway:

    Leaders need to be more alert to changes in the external environment that may affect organizational plans and activities. By focusing externally as well as internally, they can be better prepared for dealing with emerging threats and opportunities. Ignorance is not bliss.

Leadership came firmly under the microscope in the pandemic. In many ways, amongst all the challenges that the pandemic has brought, Covid-19 has provided a very powerful catalyst for a review and reset about leadership. While viewing their employees as humans with individual needs and concerns, the best leaders also showed their own vulnerabilities which ignited long overdue and meaningful connections with their teams.

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
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