How will new leaders change the world?

By the 20 May 2021

The Portuguese magazine Pessoas celebrated its 2nd anniversary by holding an online conference entitled “Work, such an odd place”. It addresses the profound changes that the workplace (and the way we work) has undergone since the pandemic outbreak in 2020.

During that event, experts, leaders and managers explored the major challenges and opportunities that emerged within this past year in terms of people management and leadership practices. Among the guest speakers was Ana Tereza Maçarico, Huthwaite International Project Manager for Portugal Associated with CEGOC (Cegos subsidiary in Portugal). She sat on the panel “The skills of new leaders: who are they, how did the pandemic change them and how are they going to transform the world and businesses?”.

Key ideas on the way leaders have changed their approaches.

Ana Tereza Maçarico shared the following key ideas in her observations:

The “new normal” created new routines, needs and skills

Everyone went into standby mode in the first months of the pandemic. We believed that things would go back to the way they were. But as soon as we all realised that it wasn’t temporary, we saw an “avalanche” of new needs. We also saw a demand for new digital skills, online communication, training, leadership and sales – the core of any business. Even customers began adapting their routines. For example, when realising that they no longer had a 4-hour commute to endure (like they used to) before a 1-hour meeting that could be held online.

Telework revealed two parallel worlds of leadership

On the one hand, control increased as a result of telework and this remote reality. We’re talking about ingrained leadership approaches that produced weary employees, instilled in organisations with no goals, purpose and empowerment. On the other hand, there were leaders and managers who realised that monitoring was possible in the remote workplace. They gave their people more autonomy, a clear purpose and renewed energy and joy.

Clear-cut decisions and tumultuous times don’t mix

The uncertainty and ambiguity we face today means that it is impossible to predict what things will be like in a year or two. So making bold decisions like “Let’s get rid of the office” or “Everyone will still work in the office” is dangerous. Now is not the time to be making rash or permanent decisions. Instead, we should be optimistic and learn, a lot.

Change is inevitable and intentional learning is key to adapting to change

We need to stop looking towards what’s new, because “new” is already here. What matters now is that we begin adapting to the change, embracing it, being resilient, and learning from it. Businesses, especially the more cautious ones, need to start thinking about what will they do five years from now when they look back and realise that they ignored the transformation they needed to survive and succeed in the future.

Compassion as an essential leadership skill

The pandemic didn’t only breed empathy. It also cultivated compassionate leadership. Not in the sense of “feeling sorry for others”, but in the real sense of the word “demonstrating a real concern for others”. Leaders began showing concern for employees with children at home, for those who care for their parents, for those whose family members were sick with COVID-19… We’re seeing real compassion. Something we didn’t see before, and that has brought new meaning to what it really means to be a leader.

Is there another idea you are thinking of? Add your comment on evolutions you noticed in the way leaders have changed their approaches.

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