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  • Writer's pictureBen Capell

Staying a great leader during COVID- Identifying and developing "emerging" competencies

It is close to a year since we all started grappling with the COVID reality. Almost overnight, leaders needed to find new ways to direct their organizations and keeping their people motivated as they navigate this unprecedented storm. The drastic changes in business and the workplace had an impact on what great leadership looks like. New demands from leaders have elevated the importance of some leadership competencies and potentially made some a bit less critical. Leaders need to identify those changes and respond to them to ensure they keep on providing their maximum contribution.

Thinking about your current business and staff needs: What do you need to do differently to continue leading your organization and team successfully?

In other words, what are the leadership competencies that are more critical for you now?

Following multiple conversations with leaders and teams, I have identified these four "emerging" competencies.

- Adaptability

- Building Remote Teams

- Articulating Purpose

- Preserving Employees' Physical and Emotional Wellbeing

I invite you to assess yourself against those competencies and consider ways to strengthen any relevant skills.

Below some more additional background on each

Adaptability: Long-term planning was one of the hallmarks of good leadership. While this competency will remain critical, what is mostly required from many leaders these days is to adapt their strategy to constant changes. The repetitive opening and closure of markets, new regulations, the use of new technologies, and other changes require leaders to adjust and improvise continually. One visible example is in the management of sports events across the world- leaders need to make difficult ongoing decisions on whether to cancel, postpone, or drastically adapt competition formats. Recognizing the rapidly changing business dynamics, some leaders I work with, who are coming from various industries, have formally changed the focus of their strategy planning from yearly to quarterly.

Leading Remotely: My first experience working in a virtual team was back in 2004 when I headed various global leadership development portfolios at Hewlett Packard. Together with my team, we needed to find ways to build trust, relationships, and understanding, while communicating from afar. This form of remote collaboration has now become the mode of operation in many organizations. Many leaders cannot rely anymore on face-to-face meetings or spontaneous office interactions to manage their staff and establish relationships in their teams. Undoubtedly, not sharing the same space makes it more difficult for leaders and teams to build personal connections, a sense of togetherness, and alignment.

Furthermore, important issues such as inclusion, trust, and mutual understanding need to be addressed much more deliberately, skillfully, and consistently.

Articulating Purpose: With so many changes and challenges going on, teams can naturally feel discouraged and overwhelmed. Furthermore, merely pursuing commercial targets for the sake of company profit can feel much less meaningful these days. By providing clarity about the "why" and purpose behind a strategy, leaders help their teams energize and push forward together. Driving such a sense of purpose requires leaders to focus beyond daily operations and profit goals and clearly articulate the organization's contribution to the greater good.

Clarifying the purpose and aligning people around it can be an energizing and bonding activity by itself. I recently facilitated a meeting with a CEO and his team where they co-defined their contribution to society. It was a highly engaging activity that equipped the executive team with new ways to motivate their own teams.

Preserving Employee's Physical and Emotional Wellness: Up until recently, wellness in a business context was, at best, a yoga class during a corporate offsite. At worse, an unspoken topic or merely an HR issue. This perspective has changed dramatically. The COVID pandemic put under the spotlight the apparent connection between wellbeing and business success. When managing their organizations, great leaders now understand and respond to their employees' physical and psychological wellness needs. It includes ensuring they provide a safe working environment, attending to health concerns, and knowing how to express care and compassion when their staff is going through difficult moments such as during isolation. All while safeguarding their personal physical and mental wellness.

Final Words: Leadership development is an ongoing journey involving constant learning and adaptation. The COVID pandemic and its impact on business and people demand leaders upskill themselves with new competencies quickly. Making an effort to improve your skills in the four areas mentioned above can help you elevate your leadership to meet current challenges effectively.

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