In looking back over the 2021/20 years, one of our executive clients described it as a “ mighty gut -punch”. Most executives would not disagree !
It seems that for most companies and managers, responding effectively to the impact of COVID-19 was still the biggest challenge of 2021. Navigating the supply chain crisis, bringing workers back to physical offices safely, and hiring and retaining employees in the midst of the Great Resignation were key focus areas.
Covid has brought the 7 year future to us within a period of 10 months ! Our human adaptability is not able to keep up with logarithmic technology change. We’re also more attuned than ever to societal issues that play an important role in how we live our lives and do our work — from burnout culture and work-life balance to diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace and the ongoing fight against racial injustice.
So how has Leadership emerged from this cauldron ? The CEO Leadership Report 2021 (https://www.ddiworld.com/research/ceo-leadership-report) highlights 4 key themes:
- C-suite leadership quality is dwindling as C-suite roles grow more demanding against rising benchmarks
- CEO’s and executives need development and support to be more effective
- Many CEO’s are not leveraging HR strategically
- Developing future talent needs to be a key imperative for CEO’s
In essence the last two years have ravished our Leadership “muscle” and , as a collective , we are “ battle bruised” .
Against this background , as we enter 2022, what are the key Leadership challenges facing us ? We base these insights on our leadership development work with executives, and leveraging our Consortium of global colleagues .
It is clear that the often used authoritarian leadership style is now very obsolete and totally unworkable. Leadership used to be about “ managing badly performing robots” ( https://www.ft.com/content/88b89565-1de9-4579-bb39-b1ee2502acb7 ) .This is well highlighted in a recent Financial times article . The crisis of 2020-21 has boosted the need for:
Handling new pressures requires leaders with a “vulnerable style”, quite different from “the macho-style leader who is rarely right yet seldom in doubt”, wrote academics Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic and Amy Edmondson in the Harvard Business Review.
The leaders of 2022 will have to be fit for the long term. They have already shifted from thinking about coronavirus as a one-off crisis. Instead, those interviewed in 2021 by Veronica Hope Hailey of Bath university and Scarlett Brown of the CIPD personnel managers group, suggested the pandemic was the start of a long transition to a new way of doing business responsibly. “We’re now thinking about this as a five or 10-year project,” said one.
To pull these thoughts together, we believe that the key challenge for our 2022 leaders is to aggressively hone and develop the leadership competency of Flexibility. This entails Intellectual and Behavioural flexibility in a dynamic way. Aggressive leadership development requires building bench strength at all levels of the organisation, support for C-Suite executives and prioritising leadership development as a “way of doing things”.