The inrush of the pandemic took away from the ties that fastened leaders to the status quo of thinking and doing. “Structures and Systems” that supported organizations before were left behind in the evacuated office, and organizations pivoted toward their people. Leaders, now forced by the WFH to operate without the complete suite of the traditional factors of organization, suddenly found themselves in uncharted territory.
And so, a chance, has arisen for leadership to rethink itself spurring renewed attention to what a leader should have and on a leader’s work.
Views like autocratic leadership or the belief that a leader is the enlightened one who treats the rest of his fellow people as machine elements with preset precise performance, awaiting to be switched on by his instructions or orders, have been exposed by the pandemic as rickety, impractical, and even dangerous.
Evidence of how companies tackled the crisis, on the other hand, suggests that the pandemic has tipped the scales in favor of the soft-side nature of organizations bringing to the fore the people approach to leadership. How then in this approach should we view leaders?
The leader should be viewed as an architect of purpose, an integrator of effort, a teacher of learning. He is one who works constantly to cultivate trust and humility by making himself a model example. His constant concern is to bring about the ingenious self of his people turning them into lovers of knowledge and self-actualization. More importantly, however, he identifies an overarching purpose for all stakeholders to share and sets himself in the front to serve it.
Such a leader is a catalyst in his people’s operations, a respecter of talent and the whole self, an enabler to make his people achievers, a coach who provides models and frameworks and inspires his people to want to be the best in their space for their sake as well as for the sake of the business.
And of course, the leader must be endowed with high values and attributes and must have the humility to recognize the worthiness of the other stakeholders and to involve them in his deliberations.
The empathetic style of leadership is back, but in a new different form. The new style recognizes the need to unite humanity with effectiveness. To be such a leader -to act in this style- what should a leader do? See below for an indicative list of what a leader should do:
- Focus on bringing out his people’s potential and on making trust and empowerment the cornerstones of the new way of running the organization.
- Recognize as a biological need the desire of human beings to learn, develop, and contribute and help them be the best they can and then make room for them to meaningfully give back.
- Embrace the democratic way of leading but clarify that it is not like a majority voting; nor does it mean that the leader must always secure consensus to move or decide. The onus for leading is still on the leader who having involved his people and heard them, must decide on the best course.
- Think of all stakeholders encouraging them to positively contribute according to each one’s capacity, and when it comes to selecting a course, weigh everyone’s interests.
- Incorporate technology expansively and educate his people to deploy it in ways that will serve both the company and the people.
- Live up to one of the main lessons of the pandemic that drastic improvements are possible when the will from all sides is there.
We are after a leadership that no more mechanistically thinks of people as cogs but recognizes them as free worthy individuals who deserve to have their needs respected and who can by their own free will be transformed into major players for the upturn of their company. This kind of leadership will not only be human and humane but most importantly by being also efficient, will serve a higher purpose for all stakeholders bringing thus back to leadership its lost morality.
- For readability he and his is used instead of the more correct he/she and his/her.
- This is the 3rd of a series of articles on leadership, the previous two were on (a) How to differentiate leaders from managers and (b) The ambidextrous leader.
About the author: Panikos Sardos is the Managing Director of P&E Sardos Business Solutions Int., a management consulting firm that offers advisory services, coaching and training. You are welcome to communicate with us by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone: +357 99640912, or visit us at www.sardossolutions.com