How the Covid-19 pandemic transformed business leadership
The pandemic has put business leaders to the test, leaving them more exposed than ever before. Gone are the days where leaders could make decisions from past experience, instead they had to learn to accept that they don’t have all the answers.
The past 18 months have seen leaders being faced with several overlapping changes simultaneously, dealing with economic, health, and logistical crises that have unfolded at a rapid pace. As a result, business leadership has evolved. Those who successfully navigated the crisis demonstrated authenticity, humility, and vulnerability, inspiring the necessary trust and psychological safety that drives shared learning and intelligence, resulting in enhanced collective performance.
Adapting to evolve
It feels like the whole world was tired since the pandemic hit. Leading exhausted teams whilst being exhausted, leaders had to re-examine their personal resilience and that of their team members. This drive for resilience required emotional rewiring and called for a different kind of appeal to team members and peers. This shift forced leaders to understand the difference between urgency and importance, balance comfort with containment and find new ways to energise.
Change, naturally, leaves us vulnerable and fractured at a time when resilience, cohesion, and collaboration are necessary to perform at the highest levels. It requires leaders to continuously evolve themselves for their organisation to develop and grow, because rather than organisations adapting to the leader, it’s necessary for leaders to instead exhibit flexibility and change according to what the circumstances require.
The fast-paced nature of the pandemic has meant that leaders have had to become agile in shifting expectations, encouraging a culture of experimentation and learning, and fostering an environment in which employees can make mistakes without fear of blame. Collaboration between employees at all levels has been key, with everyone working towards the same goal – the survival of the organisation.
The pace of change
Change that used to take place over years and decades has taken place in weeks or days during the pandemic. Leaders have never confronted change of this magnitude or at this pace. The increased volatility, complexity, and rapid change became the new normal, and it required new ways to drive change within organisations.
The idea that “leaders lead, managers review, doers do” no longer applies in the post-Covid economy. Today leaders need to be involved with the teams driving innovation, playing an active role in shaping and speeding up the change journey. They need to engage with their teams and act with compassion and understanding, making themselves visible, available, and accessible to provide the support their teams require to perform in the new hybrid work setting.
The pandemic highlighted the business need for agility and speed; however, it’s not just about doing things quickly. Organisational agility is about looking for innovative ways to build business resilience, future-proof revenue streams, improve operations, and ensure employees are supported. All change initiatives bring a level of risk, but embracing agility can provide leaders with the resilience needed to meet continuous change with confidence.
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