2020 was a year marred by COVID-19, lockdowns, and working from home. As we move forward in 2021, we know that the post-COVID-19 business landscape will look quite different. All of us, especially leaders and managers, will need to adjust our skill sets as we adapt to life after COVID.
During the pandemic, leaders had to adapt quickly to a constantly-changing world as everyone learned to navigate a new “normal” together. Many of the leadership traits that managers relied on then, such as empathy, compassion, and flexibility, will be more relevant than ever before as we look to the future.
As we prepare to enter a post-COVID-19 world, here are some ways leadership principles and traits will continue to develop and adapt to the needs of organizations and employees.
Continue to Practice Flexibility
Prior to the pandemic, workplace flexibility had gained small traction in more progressive businesses. Remote work and alternative work schedules were seen as rewards for hard-working employees and incentives to attract new talent. Now, these things are no longer considered perks, but instead, part of a powerful practice that will likely continue well after the pandemic has subsided.
As leaders and managers reimagine what their teams will look like, they should incorporate inclusive flexibility into their vision. Not only does this include the ability to work remotely, but also the power to choose (within reason) when and how they work.
Workplace flexibility will continue to be a priority for employees, therefore, it would greatly benefit employers to allow this practice to move forward.
Prioritize Mental Health and Wellbeing
Remote work, isolation, heightened anxiety and stress, and living in constant uncertainty has become a familiar part of our everyday routines during the pandemic. Regardless of your industry, it’s safe to say that COVID-19 had a major impact on your life.
Many professionals claim that the pandemic deeply affected their mental health. Feelings of fear and grief, difficulty concentrating, low energy, and a lack of motivation were just some of the effects of stress reported by workers across the country.
It’s become increasingly clear that burnout and exhaustion are inevitable effects on productivity. This is where leaders must step in and make a difference.
Simply acknowledging team members and letting them know that their leader is there for them can make a huge difference. Concern for employees’ wellbeing and health should continue to be a top priority for leaders—it’s the right thing to do, and according to the 2020 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends, 80% of respondents stated that wellbeing is highly important for their organization’s success.
Develop Your Emotional Intelligence Skills
Emotional intelligence is best defined as the capacity for awareness, understanding, and management of one’s own emotions. Emotional intelligence manifests in the ways we engage empathetically with others.
Emotional intelligence has long been cited as a beneficial leadership skill when it comes to managing others. In today’s world, as we near the end of the global pandemic and look hopefully to the future, emotional intelligence will be not only advantageous in the workplace, but also necessary.
Leaders can continue to develop their emotional intelligence skills by practicing vulnerability and openness with their colleagues. While it may not seem like a traditional leadership style, it’s a great way to bring people closer together and build trust.
A post-COVID world demands leadership traits that understand the need for employees to be heard and understood. Emotional intelligence is an inarguably important leadership trait that will yield better performance, collaboration, and employee engagement.
Practice Empathy, Continuously
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the lives of so many people in many different ways. Many have lost their loved ones, many have lost their jobs, many are struggling to cope with the mental health challenges revolving around the pandemic, and many just need to take a break.
Leaders will have to adapt to the changing needs of an evolved and sensitive workforce. Whether that means changing long-standing processes and company policies such as paid time off, sick leave, or adapting to remote work, leadership traits will need to focus on empathizing with workers’ specific needs. Practicing empathy will allow leaders to create psychological safety while also cultivating a stronger sense of belonging within their teams.
The many ways in which COVID-19 has changed the ecosystems of the workplace will require leaders from all levels within an organization to take the lead when it comes to practicing empathy. Leaders have always been the ones pushing for change, inspiring us to pursue a new course of action, and helping us dream about a better future to come. But leaders should also be the ones helping people adapt and thrive in changing environments, especially amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
By modeling empathy, leaders will fuel their teams’ ability to collaborate in a more human way while remaining conscious of the collective objectives. Empathy will also enable leaders to create a more productive, creative, and happy working culture.
Get Creative with Communication and Team Unity
A significant disadvantage of lockdowns and social distancing stemming from COVID-19 was the lack of a sense of unity. Many professionals reported feelings of loneliness, isolation, and depression throughout the pandemic.
While it can be difficult to bring people together from a distance, it’s entirely possible. As businesses continue to allow remote work, it will be more important than ever for leaders to find creative solutions to foster feelings of unity and connectedness.
As people continue to work from home, albeit out of desire rather than necessity, leaders must think outside the box to find ways to continue to engage their employees. Team building exercises, retreats, and providing space for people to be their authentic selves will go a long way in terms of feeling a sense of belonging.
Anyone who attempts to return to business as usual without adapting to a rapidly-shifting world will quickly find themselves falling behind. Leaders have a unique opportunity at this time to leverage new insights gleaned over the past year. Smart leaders will take this time to make changes in leadership styles that will enable them to adapt and thrive in new work environments.
Leaders have a paramount responsibility when it comes to taking care of the well-being of those around them. In order for leaders to continue building a culture where each and every employee can perform to their natural best while cultivating a sense of belonging within their teams, they’ll have to adapt their leadership traits to a changing environment.
If COVID-19 taught us anything, is that protecting the mental and emotional health of each other is key for teams to both stay connected and continue performing even when outside circumstances force them to be apart.
At Topic Insights, we know that there’s a leader inside each and every one of us. It’s our mission to help you nurture and inspire that leader. For more actionable content like this, subscribe to our newsletter. Questions? We’d love to hear from you. Contact us today.