If the pandemic has proved anything, it’s that the essence of what it means to be a good leader is changing. Donald Trump might not like it, but the alpha, chest-bumping style of management seems to be leaving the building. In its place is a softer, more empathetic type of leadership, defined by honesty and clear communication styles.
Its appeal has increased over the past two years – think the New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern showing compassion and providing clear communication or Gareth Southgate demonstrating humility and emotional intelligence. And not forgetting the myriad managers across the globe who have continually checked in on their staff during the pandemic.
These are all attributes that students and graduates could be fine-tuning right now. Jim Moser, director of professional development at The University of Law explains how.
Become a compassionate CEO
“Businesses are increasingly adopting softer, empathetic styles of leadership that seek to answer the concerns of employees and the public. Covid has accelerated this. But it’s not just a matter of appearing to be kind; you’ve actually got to care, which can be challenging for some bosses.”
Leaders are accountable like never before
“Another byproduct of Covid is the great resignation, where people have reflected on their jobs and sought to change them [millions worldwide are quitting; in the UK, a quarter of workers plan to change jobs in the next few months, according to a survey by the recruitment company Randstad UK]. Because of this, bosses can’t force people to go back to the office, because employees will simply leave and go somewhere that offers them the flexible working they’re after.
“Today, people have a different relationship with their bosses than 50 years ago. There’s less deference, and while bosses have always kept an eye on staff, the advent of the internet and social media means leaders are under scrutiny from employees, too.
“What does this all mean? Well, not only do today’s leaders need to ensure the wellbeing of their staff, but they also need to invest more trust in them. The idea that workers can only be productive when a boss is watching over their shoulders has gone.”
Be an advocate for causes you feel strongly about
“The more progressive organisations are increasingly giving a forum to workers to advocate issues and topics they feel strongly about – such as LGBTQ+ rights. Think what the important issues likely to affect your sector in years to come might be. Is there anything people in your organisation need training in, such as greater diversity and inclusion? If you take a stance, it could play well for your future career.”
Own up to your mistakes
“Leaders should lead by example. Be honest about your mistakes. If you’ve messed something up, people will respect you more for saying so, rather than not. As a leader, you must set a culture where people confess to their failures and learn from them.”
Throw compliments around like confetti
“Today, people expect to receive feedback. So, if somebody has completed some good work, tell them about it. It’s one of the best ways to ensure your team is enthusiastic and productive.”
Don’t be mates with your staff
“Think about what a friendship [with your staff] would do to your role. Will you treat other staff less favourably because they’re not your friends? Will you be able to judge things correctly if your friend commits an error? Friendships make leaders’ jobs more difficult – you need to be able to differentiate.”
Be an inclusive leader
“Surround yourself with people from different backgrounds. Recruiting people on the same path is a hopeless hiring strategy, and will stop you from reaping the benefits of having fresh ideas coming from different sources.
“Businesses of the future will need a mixture of people: graduates from different disciplines, non-graduates, creative workers, entrepreneurial people and analytic staff. It will be difficult for any business to survive without these people.”
Ensure there’s a sense of yin and yang between you and your deputy
“Leaders should examine their own insecurities. If you know you’re not particularly creative, you should accept that and consider employing others who can deal with the creative aspects of the business.
Look at Richard Branson – he’s an amiable, driven personality, but has always hired more conventional business types because they complemented his other skills. Likewise, you’ll often find advertising businesses with a CEO who’s good with the financial side of things, but surrounds themselves with creatives who really influence what’s going on.”
Don’t neglect the other factors needed for success
“The leaders that get to the top achieve it because they’ve got dedication, have a strong work ethic and are good at what they do. Don’t forget that luck can also play a role, but it’ll be your ability, hard work and honesty that will enable you to reflect and make good decisions, and ultimately make you a good leader.”
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