The pandemic has paved the way for a new type of leader. Some people have risen above themselves; others have failed the test. Welcome to the age of authentic, vulnerable and empathetic leadership!
People quit bosses, not companies. It’s a cliché, but like most clichés there is a lot of truth in it. No matter which survey you take, leadership is always in the top 3 of reasons why people want to work for a company. Or why they don’t want to work for a company.
Covid-19 was not just a huge health crisis, it was also a leadership crisis. Not just on a societal or political level, but also within companies. Remote working made a lot of employees loose their sense of belonging. It was up to leaders to bridge the physical gap and come up with new, digital ways to keep their employees connected and engaged.
Leave no (wo)man behind
Over the past two years, leadership has become increasingly important. But it has also become increasingly difficult. Only the managers able to read and feel from a distance what’s going on with their team managed to leave no (wo)man behind. Some leaders have passed the test, others failed their exam.
- Say goodbye to the leaders with an urge to control. Managers no longer have eyes on their team and can no longer control how the team members function.
- Say goodbye to the authoritarian leaders. Management by fear no longer does the trick. The new generation is not impressed by job titles, they don’t care how many stripes are on your sleeves.
- Say goodbye to the leaders who know it all. The pandemic was one long sequence of surprises, nobody knew what was coming next.
Every leader needs a tribe
COVID-19 was not a revolution in leadership. It accelerated a shift that was already on its way before the crisis broke out. Modern leaders are authentic, vulnerable and empathetic.
You can’t be a leader without a tribe. You can’t just command people to follow you anymore, you need to earn their trust and convince them you are the real deal. The best way to do so, is staying close to who you really are. If you want to build a tribe, you need to be very specific about your purpose. Why do you do what you do? What do you believe in? Where are you heading to? People don’t hop on a bus if they don’t know where it’s going. Share your vision, your goals, your wildest dreams.
Strong leaders are not afraid to admit they don’t have all the answers, they are not afraid to admit they make mistakes. They embrace their screw-ups, they learn from them and they do things differently the next time. People look up to their leaders and they copy them, that’s basic evolutionary psychology. Lead by example. How can you expect your employees to make mistakes if you present yourself as the perfect, infallible leader?
Rise to the occasion
Born, natural leaders are a minority. Charismatic leaders like Barack Obama or Oprah Winfrey are exceptions. Most leaders rise to the occasion. Just look at Volodimir Zelensky, the Ukrainian president who is conquering hearts all over the world now his country is under siege.
‘Thanks’ to the pandemic, new leaders have surfaced. They didn’t have the fancy title on their business card, but they had the skills and the attitude to adapt to an unprecedented crisis. They rose above themselves and their position. They stayed close to who they really are, they radiated their own voice and it resonated with their team members.
Darwin’s law most certainly applies here. COVID-19 has carried out some sort of natural selection among leaders. It’s up to companies to identify the new leaders and give them the tools to develop and strengthen their leadership skills. Because these authentic, vulnerable and empathetic leaders are the ones who will shape tomorrow’s leading companies.