Strong leadership is vital to an organization’s wellbeing. Especially in times of ambiguity, employees require a sense of stability and direction from those at the helm. As modernization projects move forward, and in some cases, become more urgent priorities, leaders must be able to energize their teams and inspire them to embrace change. At the same time, many shifts have occurred as a result of COVID-19. Leaders must be able to help employees navigate through this intersection of new professional and personal challenges in a way that fosters growth, learning and strength.
Those in leadership roles are charged with more than driving financial success. They must thrive during uncertainty, inspire innovation and problem-solving, and champion inclusivity. A study published by The Conference Board found only 14% of companies have a strong bench of leadership talent. Additionally, developing high-potential individuals below the senior level makes companies 4.2 times more likely to outperform the ones that don’t extend their development plans. Whether you are working to identify those who will lead your organization into the future, or if you are aspiring to grow your own leadership skills, there are several qualities that are vital for success.
Personal and professional lives are becoming more intertwined. Employees are experiencing organizational changes and new processes, while also adapting to shifts in their home lives. Some are feeling isolated, as they spend more time alone in their homes than ever before. Others are managing remote schooling and family responsibilities while trying to remain productive at work. Effective leaders should be aware of these challenges, actively listen to their employees and be responsive to individual employee needs. This may include continuing to offer flexible work arrangements for employees who feel more productive at home, even as offices begin to reopen.
The past year has embodied a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) landscape. Modernization projects have been accelerated, insurance organizations have adapted to remote work, and in many cases, customer behaviors have also changed. Leaders must be able to not only navigate these shifts, but also serve as a true north as they inspire their staff to overcome challenges and move forward in an effective way. Rather than trying to retrofit activities to the current landscape, leaders must rethink their ways of operating and pivot when needed.
In the same vein as agility, current and incoming leaders should possess a growth mindset and model this for their staff. A growth mindset is the understanding that one must embrace challenges as learning opportunities and continually grow to meet their full potential. In today’s tumultuous business environment, those who are willing to put in the effort and look at failure as an opportunity to learn and grow will be most effective in guiding their teams.
Commitment to Inclusivity
A commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion is vital to remain competitive. An array of voices and opinions opens-up valuable conversations and fosters innovation and creativity. Effective leaders must serve as champions for inclusion, working to ensure all voices are represented and heard, while creating and supporting a diverse talent pipeline at all levels.
While a detailed understanding of all specific systems and technologies is unrealistic, it will become even more important for leaders to understand how to best incorporate these capabilities within their teams. Effectively leveraging the unique traits of humans and technology in a strategic way can increase productivity and pave the way for innovation.
As the business and economic landscape shifts, leaders must be comfortable making difficult decisions – even when all the information is not available. It’s not possible to sit on the sidelines or wait until things seem “safe” or a decision is completely thought out. By acting quickly and boldly, leaders can set their organizations apart and become early adopters of new tools and services.
Especially in the evolving landscape, it’s important to seek out a variety of ideas and perspectives. No department can work within a silo. Successful leaders understand this, and as they move toward the future, will seek out feedback and perspectives from other areas of the business. At the same time, leaders should proactively solicit ideas from individuals at all levels of their teams, knowing that the best ideas don’t always come from the top.
Transparency is more important than ever in the current environment. Employees are dealing with a number of unknowns while ingesting an influx of news and information from all angles. By being able to clearly and frequently communicate, leaders can instill confidence within their workforce and help ease uncertainty in a way that keeps them engaged and focused on the work at hand. This includes letting employees know about an anticipated change, how it will affect the company and how it will affect their specific roles. Frequently share information in a variety of ways, including one-on-one meetings, town halls and smaller team gatherings.
While formal training and experience are important, the right skills and professional qualities will set great leaders apart. As you look toward the future, determine where your team or department is headed and identify the specific skills needed to get there. Incorporate these skill sets into development programs and establish goals around building key competencies. This can be achieved through practice and an intentional approach, along with mentorships, shadowing opportunities or coaches.
By incorporating transferable leadership skills into your hiring requirements, growing them within your department or honing your own personal skill set, your team will be best positioned to overcome future challenges and move forward with confidence.
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