Many of us are reflecting back on the year 2020, trying to sort out all that happened and get comfortable with all that changed. Our human brains are quick to sort, categorize and attempt to make sense of things. It’s just what we do. It’s true in our personal life, but also true in our business life – where we spend much of our waking days (and nights, and sometimes weekends). More than ever, for many people, those lines have blurred.
Whether the global pandemic caused your business to lag or surge, it’s probably safe to say it has changed – either how you work, where you work, or with whom. And providing good leadership through that change, dare we say…transformational leadership, is one of the biggest challenges organizations face today.
Transformational leadership is focused on four things that are critical to thriving in the accelerated speed of today’s business environment.
The Why – Being clear on your purpose
As Lewis Carroll wrote, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there”. As this applies to the workplace, understanding your business philosophy – and your why for being in business, is not an add-on strategy but rather it should be the foundational work that all else filters through. Getting to “the why” isn’t always easy work, but it’s critical. And, re-assessing your “why” after significant global, societal, and economic shifts is necessary work as you build your organization for the future. Understanding your purpose and communicating it effectively is the leading indicator for successfully motivating performance and driving employee engagement.
Resilience – Leaning into the bend
Resilience: defined as the ability of a system or organization to respond to or recover readily from a crisis or disruptive process. (Ahem, 2020…we see you.) Transformational leaders are agile and have a knack for adaptability and identifying change management strategies that are critical for “bringing others along” down a new path. Within your sales organization, your sales strategy may have changed, your products and distribution channels may be different than a year ago, and your sales incentive program may need a major revamp. It is happening across many industries and the need for flexible and resilient leadership is a key factor for success. Here’s an example of one of our client stories and how they quickly adapted in the face of changing circumstances.
Trust – What your teams need to know
When organizations recalibrate their business, people are naturally affected, and they need clear, transparent communication about shifts in focus – and they need them delivered in regular doses. Employees need to see and understand the new vision and (ideally), they need to understand the why. The ability of people to trust the message and embrace the change directly correlates to the trust and credibility the leader has already built up (or hasn’t) with their teams. And the most direct path to creating trust is through vulnerability and authenticity.
Empathy – We’ve all gone through a lot
Having come off one of the most volatile years in modern history, the emphasis on employee wellbeing is a weighty concern on the minds of many C-suite executives globally. We would be foolish to overlook the level of emotional disruption and (sometimes unrecognized) trauma that has surfaced because of life changes caused by the COVID pandemic. And, with a large contingency of the workforce now accustomed to working remotely and in greater social isolation, returning to the office and its associated social constructs could be a bumpy path. Transformational leaders will show up as compassionate and flexible with their teams and would be smart to focus on recognition and smaller milestone achievements as life ramps up to the new normal. Providing empathetic leadership to work teams, and increased budgets for wellness (general) and mental health (specific) will be an ongoing trend as companies look to retain their top talent, and ensure a healthy, motivated, and engaged workforce.
With so much change in the world right now, transformational leadership is in great demand as organizations seek a solid footing for their business and their teams. What is the secret sauce for helping businesses (and people) thrive in the future? Leadership that clearly identifies their organization’s purpose, is agile in decision-making, builds trust-friendly teams and behaves with vulnerability and empathy.