Leadership for 2021 and Beyond, Lessons Learned

If you were in a leadership role over the last year, you probably experienced challenges like never before!  Have you seen all the articles reporting on trends for 2021 and in the future?  I am sorry to tell you that being a leader is not going to get easier any time soon.  The pandemic has changed the role and our workplaces forever. 

Employees have been asking to work remotely prior to the pandemic.  In my experience, leaders were not always comfortable with this.  Some of the reasons I heard were worries about productivity and performance, the impression it would make on other employees in the office, and concern about loss of collaboration and connection with that employee and others on the team.  Fast forward to the pandemic and this was no longer an option for leaders for their workplaces to stay open.

So, what happened?

Employers were faced with challenges of getting equipment and technology for their employees to work remotely.  This technology also provided a way to collaborate with employees and teams.  Employees weren’t coming to leaders and leaders needed to change the way they managed their teams.  Leaders needed to be flexible, adaptive, emphasize communication and listen to build connections with their team.  This flexibility has given employees more job satisfaction, better work-life balance, and has increased productivity.  People were able to meet the challenges of changing needs of family and work without added stress. 

I think the real concern was that giving people remote working opportunities and flexibility would be extra work or extra effort on the part of the leader!

Employers and leaders needed to change to thrive.  We heard the word ‘pivot’ a lot over this last year.  There was and is no time for denial.  We aren’t going back to ‘normal’.  Reflect on what worked and has been good – keep it!  What has been bad and not served you, your employees, and your workplace – get rid of it!  Commuting is a waste of time, and we need to minimize it.  Utilize your talent to the fullest and invest your energy in the right place.

I believe employers and leaders that have not or will not take these steps will face high turnover in the coming year.  You may have already or will see people who are able to retire choose to do so.  You may have already or will see turnover of other employees to employers that adapt to them personally and professionally. 

Are you set up to attract, retain and engage? 

Providing remote work and flexibility is still not going to be enough.  This creates opportunity for work-life balance, but what about the employee’s overall wellbeing?  There are eight dimensions for holistic wellness and all need to be considered for workplace health. 

Leaders who have high emotional intelligence, knew that it was imperative to lead with compassion and empathy over this last year.  Some leaders may have not been ready to provide the level of emotional support that was needed.  Trust may have been broken, and employees may have started to question the values of the organization. 

This last year has also brought about an increased importance in social justice.  As a leader, you align yourself with the mission, vision, and values of the organization.  Have your actions been clearly connected to the definitions and principles with a shared understanding?  This may have required some personal risk and courage, but without that you would be unable to hold a position of integrity and trust.    

I think this crisis may have highlighted opportunity for learning, training, and personal development for some leaders.  Or maybe you are not a leader yet but aspire to be.  Either way this is a great year to learn and prepare yourself for the new world.  If you were a leader that struggled this year, you may have not had enough personal reserves to handle what was going to be coming your way.  You may have hoped to be more resilient.  Don’t hide this!  Share this vulnerability to develop and grow into a better leader.  Take care of yourself!  Showing kindness to yourself will allow you to show up that way to for others.

AND don’t wait until another pandemic or crisis hits to make considerations or deny that they will happen again.  Leaders will need to be able to lead others through prolonged crisis, they will need to plan for ongoing economic volatility, and they will have to ensure they have a sustainable approach for the triple bottom line – people, profits, and the planet.

Tell me, what do you think?

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