HomeOpinion & AnalysisNew age leadership skills needed more than ever

New age leadership skills needed more than ever


guest column:Emmanuel Zvada

COVID-19 has brought a lot of changes in organisations. Crises have a way of revealing, course-correcting and recalibrating what leadership really means. The coronavirus pandemic has shaken the nature of work to the core. While many are still anxiously awaiting a return to normalcy, what’s “normal” after the pandemic is likely to look very different from what we were used to before it began. Coronavirus is an extreme wake-up call, but it is characteristic of an era whose very essence is disruption.

As some economies are slowly recovering, the threats of renewed waves of coronavirus still remain. It is therefore important to note that uncertainty will stay with us for many months, so it will be almost impossible to define what’s “normal.” I think what we all need to think about is not a “new normal”, but a new reality or a “new now”.

The success of organisations or nations will depend on leaders who are as empathetic as they are capable. Technological change makes our world a fast-paced one on any given day, and unexpected circumstances (like a pandemic) force companies and teams to adapt at lightning speed.

For me, leadership means that you have the competence to take groups of people and make them come together as well as the ability to inspire others to achieve more than they could not have without your guidance. If you have not transitioned your leadership style from the traditional way of leading yet, you may be one of the “Old Skool” leaders who does not lead, but rules.

Crises like the one we are facing today force businesses and their leaders to change and adapt at extraordinary speed. Leadership is a driving factor in the success of a business particularly in this digital age. The pace of change means that today’s leaders need to be reactive and proactive in the face of challenges.

Digital skills and technological proficiency
As the world is changing at a rapid pace, technology has taken over everything. Leaders must be proficient in using digital tools to thrive in their work: collaborative calendars, virtual note-taking tools, email management and the many cloud-based tools that can help leaders stay organised, and connected.

Digital proficiency is important because it means that workers can utilise new and emerging technology, software, mobile applications and other tools. They can do this in a way that is productive for individuals, their employers and their customers.

Collaborative mindset
This mindset is hard to define, but you recognise it when you see it. Some of the components that make up this mindset include having an open mind, and willingness to hear from other team members, or experts. Willingness to entertain multiple strategies at the same time. Willingness to learn from past relevant experiences.

Organisational leadership must be willing to invest in collaborations through team building or other workplace activities. We need the ability to let go of established procedures and allow for the emergence of new patterns of working. Collaboration builds trust — the better you know each person, the more effectively you can work with each other or lead.

Strategic thinking and acting
In today’s business environment, someone who thinks and acts strategically is easily proved that they are committed to their company’s operations and goals. Strategic thinkers tackle problems efficiently and creatively and are not threatened by challenges.

Companies today must remain nimble and responsive to change, which is why strategic thinkers are among the most highly effective leaders. Strategic thinkers take a long-range approach to problem-solving and decision making.

They are able to plot a course of action that leads to results, in light of opportunities, obstacles and change, and ensuring actions are implemented in the right way and at the right time to achieve the desired outcome.

Innovation and creative skills needed
For businesses to keep pace in today’s competitive marketplace, innovation needs to be an organisational priority — and this type of culture should start at the top. It’s easy for leaders to get stuck in a rut performing their everyday responsibilities because people are creatures of habit, Bullock says.

Innovation is a good way for leaders to change things and try something new — which sometimes leads to great ideas and better methods. Leaders need to create an environment in which people feel free and safe to try something new.

Agility and resilience
Resilience and agility are two attributes that can help managers and teams shift their thinking to a more effective way of dealing with change. Given the pace at which our world is changing, flexibility remains the best bet for leaders in the current business scenario.

Digital disruption has been on the rise and adaptive leaders appreciate the importance of being applicable in the game and, therefore, continues to keep learning.

Leaders should have an agile mind and agility is defined as the ability to think and understand quickly. Pursuing agility without investing in resilience is risky because it creates fragility — unsupported exposure to surprises and shocks.

Coaching/mentoring skills
Coaching and mentoring are often thought of as the same thing. While they are similar, they are not exactly the same. A coach helps someone to learn new skills whereas mentors have a higher goal for people they are working with.

As a leader, there are benefits of being a coach in the workplace. You build a better relationship with employees, and the employees are more likely to buy into the company vision and work harder to succeed.

Coaching helps to mitigate problems sooner rather than later. Mentoring builds loyalty and employees willing to go the extra mile because they anticipates promotion and bigger success in their future.

Strategy and communications skills
Good communication skills and strategy are crucial when it comes to success in the business world. While technology may be inching closer to recognising facial expressions, it will never communicate and make strategies as effectively as a human can.

Regardless of which industry or field you are in, strategic thinking is a skill that will always be performed by humans.

Effective communication is vital to gain trust, align efforts in the pursuit of goals, and inspire positive change. When communication is lacking, important information can be misinterpreted, causing relationships to suffer and, ultimately, creating barriers that hinder progress.

Continuous learning and relearning
Continuous learning is the desire to continually improve your skill-set by gathering new knowledge. The best leaders are the ones who are constantly learning and figuring out how to fill the gaps and develop skills that are the most meaningful to them. With the pace at which our world is changing, adaptability remains the best bet for leaders in the current business scenario.

To understand business and work processes in today’s digital world, leaders must learn new workflow tactics and behaviours. As leaders it is necessary that you go back to the basics, relearn and start fresh with a new approach and tactics in view of digital transformation. This will give you a new perspective about the changes that are happening and help you adjust accordingly.

In an ever-changing competitive landscape that demands rapid growth leaders, leadership must also adjust accordingly to remain relevant. The kind of leadership proficiencies we need in an era of disruption cannot simply be read from books, gleaned from PowerPoint presentations or acquired in brief executive programmes. They require new forms of pedagogy that are personal, experiential, and intimate.

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