How The Pandemic Is Redefining Leadership

The Covid 19 pandemic has changed the way organisations function and has also brought about a difference in the interpersonal relationships between management, employees and clients. If a company has to grow at a time like this, an evolution is absolutely necessary. Mindsets as well as leadership behaviours have to be modified in ways that no one has ever imagined. In order to continue to grow, an organisation in the current environment has to be value driven, caring and foresighted while giving ample importance to respect, safety of the team, integrity and teamwork. The pandemic showed the world and India how these values cannot be pushed to the side and organisations are now accepting that future success largely depends on the implementation of these values and on redefining leadership.

Organisations that have already adopted these shifts and changes have presented high rates of retention, team connection, speedy innovation for solving issues with clients and improving the business-client relationship. Most importantly, they have shown growth in an economy that is otherwise slowing down. The main contributing factor for this growth is setting unbelievable goals that help in transformation and in growth results. This in turn has resulted in redefining leadership which can be explained by a seven pronged plan:

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Earn your team’s trust by doing the right thing for them

In times like these, the safety and well-being of employees and team members is of utmost importance. As a leader during this pandemic, one has to prioritise the well being of their team members, which includes both mental and physical health. In addition to well being, a realignment of strategy to work in these times and revitalising the organisation’s approach in the market is absolutely necessary. Along with these changes if a leader rewards his employees regularly, trust will be created and the team will flourish. 

The pandemic is redefining leadership because leaders today have to monitor the team very closely. This includes keeping a check on the workload and stress levels, dealing very pro actively with exhaustion and empathising with employees while talking to them. The environment inside as well as outside the office has become extremely volatile and the priority should be to create trust on the inside so the employees are ready to face what is outside. Changes like these can help organisations hasten their growth plans. When an organisation succeeds, it reflects as a success of the employees, and celebrating the employees for every small win will surely go a long way in this pandemic.

Do not hide your own fears and vulnerabilities

Pre-pandemic, and especially in the Indian sub-continental culture, leaders were expected to be strong and invincible, while the display of vulnerabilities was always looked at as weakness. Management schools also groomed leaders to display superpowers and never reveal their own fears, anxiety and insecurities.

However when Covid-19 hit India, the way it spread and the expanse it covered in an extremely short time took the wind out of the best of us. The challenge of dealing with illness and loss of loved ones, while still maintaining leadership positions was proving to be a herculean task. In order to move forward, leaders had to start sharing their own weaknesses with their team, because fighting the challenge alone was not possible. As we continue to be in the middle of the pandemic, anticipating the next wave to hit any week, leaders have to learn to be honest and open up to their team members and employees rather than pretend that they can solve everything on their own. Honesty and transparency will help leaders build genuine and meaningful relationships and be ready for any more challenges that may be thrown towards them.

Redefine the higher purpose of your team

Before the pandemic spread in India, companies had a higher purpose that was set out years ago. When the pandemic kicked in, it meant making changes to deal with the fact that employees, colleagues and clients were socially distanced for a very long time. Not only were work relationships affected, families and friends were away from each other too, and in the beginning for a very long and unforeseen period of time. Morale was low, and working with all the other distractions was also a challenge. As people are slowly returning physically to office, and as some organisations are still working in online mode, attention has to be paid to ensure productivity and general happiness of the organisation. This is redefining business leadership because leaders now have to not only motivate themselves, but also motivate members of the team with the help of a shared purpose. A purpose that is well defined can ensure the team is energised and can inspire the group of members to act in an extraordinary way, which in turn can contribute to the success of the organisation as well as their social communities.

Promote belonging and inclusivity

Covid-19 comes with challenges that cannot be addressed without diversity. While most organisations ensure there is diversity in every way possible, a lot more can be done to improve it. Leaders have to now ensure that the feeling of inclusiveness and belonging is instilled in every team member. Leaders have to also consider what more they can do to ensure equity and have to work harder with personal engagement. Encouraging team members to open up and speak out is essential to challenge the way things exist.

Use innovation to take on challenges

Plenty of organisations had to act quickly, in order to adjust with changes that the pandemic demanded. In a country where a lot of major decisions are made over “chai and vada pav”, teams were suddenly sitting in their own homes and trying to maintain the same levels of energy and camaraderie. Problems were generally solved very differently when everyone was working offline, however due to the pandemic, leaders now have to come up with solutions that are “jugaadu” in nature and can give fast and effective results.

Communicate constantly to avoid stress and false information

Once the pandemic set in, teams had to learn to communicate much more than they did in offline offices. The communication was now required to be verbal and written, and not non verbal. In the current scenario leaders have had to bring about a change and have bi weekly team meetings instead of weekly ones. A leader can even go the extra mile and send handwritten notes, letters and have personalized phone discussions with each member to avoid any type of miscommunication. This of course requires a lot more work but is one of the main adaptations that are needed with redefined business leadership.

Focus on collaboration instead of competition

While competition is healthy, current times demand swift action and effective interaction. This can be possible by focusing on collaborating with core teams of the company via Teams or Zoom, so that the client gets more information in a short period of time. Not only do inter and intra organization collaborations help save time, they also ensure efficiency in the final product. Strategic collaborations with competitors can also help leaders to get more business, and expand their client base. With the pandemic and its rules of social distancing, finding new clients has been harder than ever and all leaders can do now is rely on the virtual market.

Leaders today have to do a lot more than ensure they deliver quarterly goals. The pandemic has clearly encouraged redefining business leadership, which has in turn resulted in overall personal and professional growth of leaders in all industries. The pandemic changed the way India did business and those who adapted to the essential changes grew their business even in times like this.

Reference: How The Pandemic Is Redefining Business Leadership | Forbes Council Post | Parakala Kumar | September 2, 2021

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