Most organizations were busy combatting the effects of the pandemic for the past two years. From retaining employees to getting back to the office or hybrid work mode, many leaders are still focused on resolving challenges they had never faced before. Now, more than ever, is the time people need effective leadership. How we treat our people and how we run our organizations will depend on how leaders adapt to change.
To be an effective leader during such unprecedented times, leaders must remain open to a 180-degree change in how things were done in the pre-pandemic era. To embrace these changes and overcome the challenges, here is a list of five leadership skills all leaders must be intentional about developing and mastering moving forward:
Embrace diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI)
DEI enriches your teams by bringing different experiences and perspectives to the table. It also drives increased financial performance, according to the 2020 McKinsey & Company Report, “Diversity wins: How Inclusion Matters.” As a leader, it is your job to ensure that your people feel valued and that they belong within their teams and in the organization. Offer adequate support and resources to enable them to achieve their full potential. Invite Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) speakers and consultants to aid in finding opportunities, developing strategies, and conducting training & discussions around DEI-related issues to empower your people to effectively embrace this change too.
Hybrid is the new workplace norm. People may find it challenging to collaborate remotely. Leaders must be prescriptive in promoting effectiveness within and between teams by defining clear goals, setting the right expectations, and allowing open communication. Leaders must also stay vigilant to ensure all members of the team, regardless of their location, are engaged, heard, respected, and offered opportunities. Encourage an inspiring and creative environment, both online and offline. Even for companies that allow employees to work fully remote, annual offsites can be a good way to get people together for in-person collaboration (perhaps around the annual strategy), professional development, and networking.
The business world relies on technology, now more than ever. From remote onboarding to online collaboration, be prepared to implement new technology quickly and efficiently. Ongoing training programs are often the best path to adopting technology transformation. Consider ways that technology can enhance the way teams collaborate, facilitate matching and maintenance of mentorship relationships, support cross-functional and cross-border teams, and democratize learning and development.
Competing priorities will often lead teams to focus on the things that are measured, despite their desire to do more in other areas. While DEI is non-negotiable, it is also important for leaders to keep themselves and their people accountable. This is possible only when everyone feels a sense of ownership for their respective roles. Ensure that employees are given the autonomy required to get the work done and the clear expectations, deadlines, and constructive feedback to hold them accountable.
When it comes to DEI, accountability can look different from organization to organization, but the best practice is to treat DEI goals like other business goals in that they are defined, measured, and not optional. Define clear goals and expectations, determine the measures of success, and track and report progress. Leaders should be evaluated on their ability to foster diverse, inclusive, and equitable teams. New manager training and other development opportunities, toolkits, and resources should provide the education and tools needed to help identify the practices that drive success on this measure.
Invest in employee growth
True leaders are able to empower their employees to not only improve productivity and efficiency but also provide opportunities to grow and develop, as people. As an effective leader, when you invest in your people, you cultivate higher morale, improved well-being, and a desire to succeed.
Change is happening all around us, and at a faster pace than we could ever imagine. These five skills may not be the only things leaders need to focus on, but they are definitely a good starting point.
It is time to act – and DEI speaker, Monique “Nikki” Murphy’s talks on Diversity, Equity & Inclusion; Race, Gender, and Social Justice; and more, to inspire your employees to do just that. Murphy is an awarded DEI speaker, poet, financial literacy advocate, wife, mother, and award-winning author of Home For Hurricanes: A Memoir of Resilience in Poetry & Prose.