If there’s one thing that the global pandemic taught companies across all sectors, it’s that now, more than ever, they must quickly adapt to an ever-changing business world. That means the leadership of today may not look like the leadership of the past decade. While certain fundamental principles of an effective leader remain the same, others have evolved to match the shifting needs and demands of today’s workforce.
What Does Lasting Leadership in the Current Work Environment Entail
The answer to this question lies in an understanding of how the pandemic ushered in an entirely different work model. Enter the era of remote and hybrid work. No longer are leaders managing a staff that maintains a set schedule and commutes to and from the workplace each day.
Beginning in 2020, thanks in part to advances in technology, many companies enabled their employees to work from their homes, thus launching the continuing trend of remote work. While not without challenges, working remotely has also become a welcome change for employees seeking flexibility and an improved work-life balance.
Taking remote work a step further, many businesses have embraced a hybrid work model that affords employees the resources and socialization that an office provides, along with the freedom to work and collaborate from anywhere. A staff following the hybrid model might work in the office Mondays and Wednesdays, and the rest of the week at home, with conference calls conducted from the car, for example.
The evolution of remote and hybrid workforces means that traditional methods of teambuilding no longer apply. Today, companies are turning to virtual teambuilding activities to keep employees engaged and connected, even when working from various locations. This includes digital card games, online trivia, virtual coffee breaks and happy hour, and more.
What This Means for Today’s Leaders
Essentially, the most effective leaders accept that remote and hybrid work models have become the norm. In addition, they embrace the best practices that create a thriving culture, despite managing a blend of in-office and out-of-the-office workers. And, they understand what matters most to their workforce.
At the heart of this understanding is fostering a healthy work-life balance, as mentioned above. According to Statista, 72% of potential employees believe that work-life balance is an important factor to consider. While working from home can help employees better manage their personal lives, achieving balance continues to be a challenge as remote workers tend to start work earlier, sign off later and take fewer breaks throughout the day.
Another top priority for today’s workforce is an emphasis on diversity and inclusion — the key factor in determining a company’s culture. A truly diverse workforce comprises employees from various cultural, academic, and professional backgrounds, and includes a balance in gender, age, and race. However, workers also want to see diversity paired with inclusion. This allows them to feel included in the workplace by giving them equal opportunities during their entire employee lifecycle.
Also essential to today’s employees is answering the call for continued education. As part of an organization’s human capital, high-performing employees desire employers that continually reinvesting in them by encouraging and offering continuing education on a variety of topics. This can be achieved by utilizing a range of training formats, including implementing in-house training programs.
Top Tips to Ensure Successful Leadership in Today’s Business Climate
Recognizing what matters most to employees is the first step in sharpening your leadership skills to help your organization flourish and succeed. Now that you know what your employees are looking for, it’s time to focus your attention on the qualities that will enable you to lead them most effectively.
Top 5 Characteristics of Leaders Who Encourage Success in Today’s Work Environment
1. They Are Good Communicators
Communication skills may seem like an obvious quality of good leadership, but effective communication goes far beyond clearly and succinctly speaking, as well as simply listening to employees. The best leaders practice “active listening,” which involves paying attention to the conversation, not interrupting, and taking the time to understand what the speaker is discussing and apply it to the workplace.
What’s more, they provide and receive feedback — and the type of feedback matters. Leaders can boost employee performance through consistent and personalized feedback that is respectful and impactful. And, feedback shouldn’t be limited to employee reviews. Often, spontaneous feedback can be a far better form of communication and deliver more meaningful results than rigid forms of communication like annual reviews.
Effective leaders also practice effective cross-cultural communication. That means they are able to clearly communicate with individuals, business units, the company as a whole, and stakeholders. Given our increasingly global economy, leaders must also acknowledge and respect different communication traditions. When necessary, they should adapt their communication style to different cultural traditions. For example, some cultures show emotion more readily than others.
2. They Are Emotionally Intelligent
“Emotional intelligence” are more than just buzzwords in today’s work environment. In fact, leaders who are self-aware, authentic, reflective and empathetic can be more adaptive, resilient, open to change, and accepting of feedback from others; not to mention, better listeners. This translates to higher levels of trust with their employees and a culture of transparency. By building emotional intelligence, leaders can recognize their impact on others and demonstrate humility and integrity.
The following behaviors can help you focus on your self-awareness and build emotional intelligence:
- Focus on the big picture and avoid being distracted by small, tactical details. Practice effective management of your time and attention.
- Conduct self-assessments, seek feedback from your team, and set improvement goals with measurable targets. Retain awareness of your strengths, weaknesses, and any sources of bias that may impact your decision-making.
- Set and prioritize goals, and take responsibility for accomplishing them. Take responsibility when you fall short of your goals or make mistakes.
- Accept that things can and will go wrong, so that you may respond in a thoughtful way
3. They Are Inclusive
Effective leaders recognize that all employees want to feel accepted, safe, and comfortable at their place of work. They also realize that building an inclusive workplace is something that needs to be actively pursued. In an inclusive workplace, every team member is valued, included, and respected, regardless of who they are — and that doesn’t happen automatically. Inclusive workplaces can also include Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion teams or initiatives.
While different companies will require different types of inclusion measures, generating an inclusive workplace should be a top priority for any organization. Leadership can be implemental in adopting inclusive practices that aim to identify and deconstruct barriers to participation and success in the workplace. Inclusive leaders also empower employees by offering support and workplace adaptations as necessary.
Examples of inclusive practices include:
- Demonstrating a commitment to diversity throughout the organization, especially at senior levels
- Creating Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion working groups or forums
- Blocking off time in meetings for everybody to share ideas and opinions
- Offering adjustments and adaptations to employees to help them thrive
4. They Are Developmental
Another quality successful leaders share is that they are committed to the personal and professional development of themselves and their employees. They encourage and seek continuing education opportunities, always looking for ways to strengthen their teams. And, they promote strategic thinking in others to help them arrive at a solution rather than simply giving them the solution. By helping employees learn, inspiring creativity, coaching, mentoring and nurturing capability, leaders can build trust and a loyal team committed to success.
Encouraging continued learning is often as simple as having employees learn from one another through cross-training across various departments, including operations, sales, administration, customer service and marketing. Employees expressing an interest in additional skill sets can receive on-the-job training, while those who would benefit from further education can be offered tuition reimbursement programs, which typically yield a major return on investment.
Leaders who are directly involved in their employees’ career paths, invest in their futures, and encourage a healthy work-life balance through the pursuit of personal hobbies and interests can prevent burnout and maximize productivity. Adding team-building activities, such as those mentioned above, can also grow productivity, develop skills, and boost retention rates.
5. They Are Flexible
Flexibility is a key characteristic of leaders who succeed in the midst of today’s changing work environment. They understand that last-minute changes come with the territory, and develop the ability to accept those changes in stride and creatively problem solve. In addition, they are open to suggestions and feedback, and are willing to make necessary changes when employees voice their concerns.
Some of the leadership skills related to flexibility include:
- Ability to learn new skills
- Ability to respond to new problems or issues
- Recognizing individuals’ strengths and skills
- Treating employees as individuals
Being a Successful Leader Starts with a Self-Inventory
Above all, leading successfully entails taking a continual inventory of your personal leadership skills to help you to identify specific areas that are strengths, as well as areas that need further development. A simple yet highly effective way to do this is to thoughtfully consider the answers to questions such as: Do I make others feel good about their work and valued? Am I modeling what I want to see in others? Taking the time to do this self-assessment on a regular basis can go a long way toward cultivating a successful work environment.
Enhance Your Leadership Skills with Proliant
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