By Madhukar Govindaraju, Founder & CEO

“Crisis does not build character. It reveals it”.

The strength of a true leader is revealed when it comes under fire. And it can be safe to say that the past few months have been an extremely testing period for leaders across organizations. 

As the lockdowns are gradually being lifted across the world, we are just about realizing what our new normal is going to be like. The term, ‘responsible leadership’ takes on a deeper meaning as employees and customers try to settle into the new rhythm of things. 

The global environment that was already fast-moving now has become unfamiliar as well. Virtually all organizations are identifying how to get back to ‘normal,’ but speed is also of the essence. 

Leadership has to work quickly to redistribute disrupted supply chains, they need to safeguard employees, have to enable a remote workforce with no time in hand to ease people into it, and also have to be the bearers of bad news. All of this, while maintaining their own energy so that they can inspire confidence and continue to motivate their employees.

The thing with leadership is that it has leaders, even the highly successful ones, to be in a mode of continuous improvement. They have to look at ways to reinvent themselves to stay relevant and have to embrace change faster or run the risk of being outrun. 

Irrespective of their effectiveness, yesterday, today and tomorrow will make new demands on the leaders. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that clearly. And there is no playbook to refer to what to do and how to change leadership styles in the face of a 21st-century pandemic. 

While there might not be any silver bullet suggestions on how to navigate the challenges of the new reality, it is clear that leadership has to become more accommodating than ever before.

‘Building Trust’ was important before – it is essential now

The definition of a good leader has always included an element of trust. A leader can only be considered a good one when the workforce expresses trust in them. With COVID-19, this has assumed deeper importance. The workforce is looking to trust its leaders, and this trust can now be inspired only with clear and focused actions.

The actions of the leaders have to show their employees that they care for each individual. They are not mere cogs in the wheel. Along with caring, leadership has to become more transparent about their plans, how they plan to navigate the treacherous business landscape and communicate clearly with their employees. Establishing strong communication and governance principles, and the tone becomes important to build trust.

Increase focus on shared purpose

Leaders also work on building ‘shared purpose’ with their employees now. With teams operating remotely and with uncertainty looming large, employees need an anchor to get a sense of connection and belonging.

Once President John F. Kennedy visited a NASA space center. He met a janitor and asked him, “what are you doing”. He replied, “Well, Mr. President, I’m helping put a man on the moon.” When people are connected to their work, when they have a sense of shared purpose, they become more committed to their work.

Given the upheaval that COVID-19 has had on people, how it has impacted them at a professional and personal level, how it has changed the world of work, how isolated the entire experience has been, leadership has a lot of work to do. They have to help employees reconnect with their work, find a sense of purpose and excitement in their roles and relearn how it ties back to the business goals. Irrespective of how big or small their role is, leadership has to work on helping employees understand how they are contributing to the larger picture.

Also Read: Engaged Employees Are Driven by Shared Values and Vision

Over Communication – there’s no such word anymore

There is no such word as ‘over-communication’ in the vocabulary of the leadership anymore. Establishing new guidelines as the world of work hobbles back to its older pace and with uncertainty looming large, the focus falls heavily on leadership communication skills to keep their teams connected.

While leadership had to always maintain clear communication, today this communication needs to be more detailed, transparent, emphatic, and continuous. Ambiguity is overwhelming in the minds of the employees. It becomes the task of the leadership to rally around clear and consistent communication. Leadership across the organization also has to also be in sync with each other, and thus establishing strong communication guidelines and protocols are now even more essential.

Leadership has to step down from its altar and get down into the trenches. This means becoming more visible in even standard meetings (think everyday sprint sessions or client calls) to establish their presence and make the workforce feel like they are a part of the crowd.

Take tough decisions

When the pandemic hit the world with all its force, leaders across the globe were compelled to act urgently to enable remote working. Many organizations in the pre-pandemic time were already aware that they would have to enable some form of remote working. The pandemic just shows us that we need to accelerate human and machine collaboration to support people to adopt a more digital way of working.

Those in leadership roles have to now take many such tough decisions. Whether it is to restructure and realign the workforce, identify new revenue streams, refocus the business, or include more automation, the road ahead involves taking several new and tough  decisions. These have to be taken with integrity, intention, and without guilt.

Increase flexibility, agility, and empathy

Flexibility, agility, and empathy – these are venerable traits in the new world. If leaders are not already working with cross-functional, agile teams, the time to do so would be now. There is no place for functional silos anymore.

The world is only going to become more VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous). As leaders face this new world, past experiences might not be enough to navigate through the current scenarios. Leadership development has already been focused on increasing the capacity of leaders to deal with VUCA. 

For this, developing traits of flexibility to accept challenges, agility to deal with such challenges easily, and empathy to help others to overcome rapidly changing realities become essential arsenal in the leadership kitty.

Also Read: The 3 Most In-Demand Power Skills for Managers Today

Learning intelligence and growth mindset

Leadership also has to now take a deeper dive into the growth mindset. They have to actively invite and objectively evaluate information and ideas not only from within their own organization but also from peers and colleagues in other organizations.

Leadership has to believe in ‘learning intelligence’. They have to develop the ability to look for help and learn and leverage others’ expertise and experiences to increase their ability to make better and well-informed decisions.  

It is time for leadership to gear up and increase their stamina and build resilience for the long haul now. Given the way the world is shaping up, it is clear that they need to build their capacity to run a grueling marathon over a sprint.

By Shalini Ramakrishnan, Director of Product Marketing

Every company envisions to be a fast-growing company that has the pulse on its customers changing needs and follows an agile approach to meet those needs before the competitor does. A fast-growing company requires its employees to adopt a growth mindset. It especially looks for leaders who can drive growth and make the company nimble-footed. 

Here are a few skills that a company looks for in its top leaders. 

Leadership

Employees always look for mentors and coaches in their leaders. They prefer to work with leaders who demonstrate the same level of commitment and diligence as they do. Fast-growing companies look for leaders who can inspire and lead by example and maintain transparency while interacting with employees. They also look for leaders who possess high emotional intelligence and create an environment where people are respected irrespective of their diverse background, and where passion towards work is considered more significant.

Also Read: Critical Leadership Skills that High-Potential Women Leaders Should Be Groomed On

Problem-Solving

Failures are inevitable when companies innovate and grow. The key factor is to learn from the failures and challenges and move ahead. A growth-focused company looks for leaders who don’t shift the blame on to anybody but instead take a solution-based approach to solve the business challenges. These leaders give importance to customer-centricity and work towards building trust within and outside the company. A good leader will take the onus of the mistakes and take ownership to solve them.

Also Read: The 3 Most In-Demand Power Skills for Managers Today

Open Communication

Running a fast-growing company is not a one-person activity. It requires several people with specialized skills to manage it smoothly. For a business to run smoothly, leaders have to be able to communicate their vision and ideas to their employees and other stakeholders with laser-sharp clarity. 

As Susan Tardanico, founder and CEO of the Authentic Leadership Alliance, said, “Forget about eloquence — worry about being real.” 

Leaders should be clear about what they expect to achieve and what they expect people to do to achieve it. Communication is also a two-way street. So, companies prefer to work with leaders who are open to new ideas and are willing to listen to other people’s perspectives while making business decisions. A democratic way of functioning is always preferred.

Consistent Execution and Results

Companies like to work with leaders who act decisively and make crucial business decisions based on evidence and not emotions or gut feelings. They like to work with leaders who have the ability to drive growth and deliver results consistently. It is also important that leaders have the ability to challenge the status quo. It helps companies to drive innovation and grow faster than their competitors. 

Take Dell, for instance. Michael Dell could foresee changes that were to occur in the future and bring in rapid changes to get to the market before his competitors. He did everything to foster innovation within the enterprise. If a company has to deliver consistent results and stay ahead, it has to innovate constantly. That’s possible only when the leader makes bold decisions in the interest of the company and people.

Also Read: When the Threat of Disruption Is the New Normal, How Are Enterprises Fostering Innovation?

Innovation with agility

In the early 1900s, Henry Ford had captured 60% of the automobile market share worldwide. His secret sauce was combining agility with innovation. In a fast-paced environment, agility and innovation is the key to a company’s success. Fast-growing companies often look for leaders who have an agile mindset and are innovative at the same time. They need leaders who are willing to take intelligent risks and accept failure. They should be able to inspire others to adopt agility in their business processes as well. This type of culture can help companies to stay at the top of their game consistently.

Tight Collaboration 

Companies grow and achieve more when disparate teams share common goals. Alignment between sales and marketing, for instance, can help companies achieve 27% faster three-year growth. 

Collaboration leads to faster decision-making, more productivity, and revenue growth. However, collaboration can happen only when leaders encourage it. Leaders must break the silos, engage with all the teams, and unify them to deliver as a single unit. They should also be capable of building trust among team members and resolving differences between the teams to avoid derailment of work.

Self-Management

A leader can manage a team only when they can manage themselves. Fast-growing companies need leaders who have established personal credibility throughout their careers and are constantly yearning to learn and grow in their personal and professional areas of life.

These skills may or may not be innate within an individual. They are cultivated and honed throughout their career. While leaders may come with their set of skills, companies also have an equal role to play in the development of leaders. 

AI-based learning platforms such as NumlyEngage™ help companies identify the skill gaps in leaders and help them nurture and develop those skills. Get a demo today

 

By Shalini Ramakrishnan, Director of Product Marketing

According to a McKinsey study, 79% of entry-level women and 83% of middle-management women desire to move to the next level in their workplace. 75% of women aspire to become a part of the C Suite – numbers that prove that ambition is not gender defined. 

However, even today, only 4.6% of CEOs in Fortune 500 companies are female!

We are finally moving away from ‘second-generation gender bias’, a set of assumptions that appear neutral but reflect prejudiced values in the traditional perception of leadership. To get women to the top, organizations have to focus on developing a few critical leadership skills of their high-potential women leaders. 

Here is a small list.

Building Credibility 

Credibility is a core skill of all successful leaders and has to be a key focus area of all leadership development initiatives. This is the same for high-potential women employees as well. Trust goes hand in hand with credibility and, hence, it is not something that can happen overnight. Credible leaders are a dependable source of information and expertise. It also makes them good decision-makers. Such leaders also rank highly on the accountability matrix and take full responsibility for their actions and decisions. 

Negotiation and Influencing 

Our social conditioning through the decades has made it harder for women to claim authority, which often impedes their negotiation success rates. Women are taught from the onset that by negotiating, they are taking something away from a person. This feels like a violation of the social contract they are born with. 

Yet, negotiating skills and the capability to influence others greatly determine the success rate of an individual. Building key behaviors such as asking for what they need without feeling stressed or uncomfortable, building negotiation style, developing strategies to leverage past successes for future negotiations, and identifying and overcoming the barriers of negotiation success are essential. 

Managing Up & Across the Organization

Those working their way up the leadership ladder have to hone their skills to manage teams across the organizations. For this, it is imperative to develop the capabilities to lead cross-functional teams and manage the hierarchies at play. 

It also means developing the skills to manage complex relationships. Having strong communication skills and having an understanding of the language that is most effective for peers, subordinates, and high-ups become critical metrics for leadership success. 

Managing Organizational Complexities and Strategic Thinking 

Given the volatile and dynamic market conditions, high-potential women employees, much like their male counterparts, have to work towards honing their strategic thinking skills. To do so, it is important to first gain a deep understanding of the organizational complexities at hand, the challenges the organization faces, the areas of improvement, and what the organization is doing right in relation to the market dynamics. All these things help in getting the contextual understanding of decision impact. 

Organizations have to groom their women leaders to improve their capability to ‘see around the corner’. This means they have to develop the capability to anticipate market shifts with customers, regulations, policies, and competitors by understanding which information to keep and which ones to ignore.

Behavior, Feedback, and Leadership Perception

Learning is an essential and unending part of the leadership journey. Determining the effectiveness of the leadership style, thus becomes important. And for this, it is important to be open to feedback and develop strong capabilities to self-evaluate and develop the right set of behaviors and attitudes that support the personal leadership brand, and consequently, the career direction. 

Build Strategic Networks for Authentic Engagement 

Organizations have to assist women employees in mastering dominant codes that nurture ambition. This includes building awareness of self-imposed limitations and the crucial importance of networking. 

High-potential women employees have to be more focused on building strategic networks to create opportunities for broader professional exposure while raising their profile, having more meaningful interactions, and building more authentic engagement. 

Identify and Implement a Personal Leadership Strategy 

Should you ‘Lean in’ or ‘Lean out’? Should your leadership style be authoritative and/or assertive? Do women have to be louder to be a leader? Do leaders always have to be extroverts? Clearly, there are many leadership styles to choose from. But which one is the most ‘effective’ leadership style? 

Organizations have to now take a step forward and help their high-potential women employees realize their own leadership strengths, simply because leadership does not come in a ‘one-size-fits-all’ format. To develop effective women leaders, organizations must help them understand different leadership styles and then enable them to confidently embrace the one that suits their personality, situation, and organizational culture. 

The last few years have been standout years for women in the corporate world. While there are cracks that are appearing in the proverbial glass ceiling, it is yet to be shattered. The onus of furthering the cause of women does not rest with the women workforce alone. It rests with organizations as well. Having recognized the value that women bring to organizations, organizations should leverage coaching and mentoring programs to help their women employees move ahead in leadership roles by bridging the gaps that impede their growth in a male-centric environment. 

 

NumlyEngage™ helps you build a culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Let’s connect to know how you can leverage the power of AI and analytics to identify and nurture high-potential talent. 

Upcoming Webinars - Engaging and Up-Skilling Your Employees From a Distance

3rd and 17th December, 2020