Even before the pandemic, advice about the skills we’d need for the future was plentiful. But our global crisis taught us even more important lessons about the skills we need now to guide others in our companies and industries. In addition to the previous advice about competencies that would be important for the future of work, what leaders really need is a deep store of resilience, objectivity, and flexibility.
In other words, we need limitless leadership! To navigate well in domestic and global arenas, we must grow our capacity to manage and leverage disruption; embrace trends and preferences that are woven into our new remote plus in-person work processes; and nimbleness to rapidly adapt to change. It’s a big task— and a big opportunity.
Within those traits and skills are some essential capabilities for today’s leaders:
FACILITATION AND PROJECT MANAGEMENT
Massive and rapidly established remote work tested our resourcefulness, and we rose to the challenge! Initially, it checked our ability to manage at a distance and through virtual means. And now that our workforce is changing again to more of a hybrid situation (remote plus in person), it brings with it a new set of issues. How do we collaborate effectively? What do we need to do to upskill or reskill our employees for the future of work? How do we make each team member, regardless of their work location, feel responsible, valued, and included? How do we change the distribution of work and projects for the optimal outcome?
ADDRESSING CURRENT STRATEGY
Work has changed. Business has changed. Painting a candid current picture of what business looks like and what the short-term plans are provides some stability. In any business environment, but particularly in
one that holds such ambiguity, straightforward, thoughtful, and consistent updating that names both the business opportunities and uncertainties is good leadership.
Allowing ourselves to consider unfamiliar possibilities goes hand in hand with our shifting workforce. The pandemic prompted nearly 50% of employees to reevaluate their jobs and career goals, and to take more control in shaping the direction of their careers. It pushed employers to continually adjust processes, analyze products, empower team members, rethink supply chains, and find a way to connect and stay close to clients when it wasn’t possible to visit them face-to-face. This is not a time to simply resume pre-pandemic organizational behaviors without studying what works and what doesn’t! Rather, it’s an amazing chance to practice active listening, to assess new ways to recruit, manage, engage, and retain employees so that their career goals are met, and to redesign our internal processes to align with the new ways we and others are working.
The term “soft skills” has been tossed about generously in the last few years, for good reason. During a crisis, skills like adaptability, problem-solving, creativity, teamwork, and excellent communication competencies are what get us through. Leaders who possess deep stores of these skills—and/or can identify these skills in others and bring them into the organization to complement technical skills and other job-specific expertise— are building a resilient, flexible team.
Tech innovation hasn’t paused in the pandemic environment. Remarkable advancements were made in the last 12 months in such areas as collaboration platforms, AI and virtual reality, service apps, cybersecurity, and fintech. We don’t all need to be digital geniuses, but we do need to understand the technology that matters to our business. And when we can work with team members or create partnerships that combine soft skills with their technology talent, we’re bringing a powerful blend to our workplace that educates our employees, enhances our business, and improves our customers’ experience.
Every crisis reveals gaps and strengths we may not know we had. This is, as they say, “free consulting!” It’s smart to factor these experiences into future business objectives and strategy.
Never has it been more important to be thankful for the quality, focus, and commitment of our team members; for the partnership we have with our clients, providers, and colleagues; and for the opportunity to lead through disruption. We are in these roles for a reason, and we can thank our companies, our workforces, and our customers for allowing us the honor of working beside them.
Sometimes we seek new responsibilities, and sometimes they are thrust upon us! But no matter how we receive it, change gives us the opportunity to reexamine how to serve and address our people and companies, and most importantly, how to improve our own performance so that the “limitless leadership” we’re offering to our employees, our service partners, and our customers results in the best possible experience.