As the world recovers from the pandemic, the challenges that today’s leaders face are growing more quickly and more broadly. During these unprecedented times, leaders continue to face unexpected – and often novel – challenges. Dr. Joseph Gier outlines the keys to developing and preparing leaders to succeed in this ever-changing and unpredictable environment.
Although leadership development has always been about preparing people to be successful leaders in the future, today there is less certainty regarding what that “future” will look like. In fact, according to Harvard Business’s recent publication – Ready for Anything (2023 Global Leadership Development Study), there seems to be a great deal of disagreement regarding what those future challenges will be. In a recent survey and follow-up interviews with nearly 1,300 leaders and Learning and Development (L&D) professionals, the key theme that emerged was that today’s leaders must be prepared for anything. That’s right – even these supposed “experts” could not agree on the most important upcoming leadership challenges (Harvard Business Publishing Corporate Learning, 2023). What is a leader – especially a young leader – to do?
The best way to prepare for this unknown future is to look at the most important trends identified as the Four Key Challenges. The first is Contending with Continuous Disruption Beyond the C-Suite. Number two is Building the Tech-Savviness of All Leaders. The third challenge is Humanizing Leadership in the Digital Age. Finally, the fourth challenge is leading the Hybrid Work Strategy.
Contending with Continuous Disruption Beyond the C-Suite
Although obtaining information about customers and emerging markets has become much more accessible, understanding and communicating it has become more complex. As the amount and frequency of data have grown substantially, the ability to synthesize this information and make the most effective decisions and plans based on this data has become exponentially more difficult. In part, that is because executives or senior leaders are expected to make many decisions very quickly – and those decisions always need to “be right.” Overall, the most successful leaders will be prepared to take calculated risks that consistently result in successful planned actions. Obtaining accurate data from informed sources regarding the “true challenges” that are most likely to occur lies at the heart of successfully overcoming this challenge. To be most effective, the leader must act upon that information promptly.
Building the Tech-Savviness of All Leaders
The significant changes and advances in the information technology (IT) world require corporate leaders in every area of business to become very knowledgeable and “tech-savvy.” Leaders must be prepared to better understand and lead technology-dependent plans. These projects are not simple upgrades to their previous systems and processes. Instead, they are more likely to be “transformational” upgrades and new systems. It is essential that all leaders clearly understand these projects and that the company maintains a world-class IT department with future-focused leaders in charge. The IT leadership must continually communicate effectively across the entire leadership team. Without this, it is very likely that the organization will quickly fall behind its competitors.
Humanizing Leadership in the Digital Age
Although the pandemic brought more “empathic” changes into most organizations, many leaders are still struggling with the associated challenges that continue to impact the employees in their company. In a 2022 survey by Harvard Business Publishing Corporate Learning, 78% of senior leaders felt strongly that demonstrating empathy is highly important in their role, but only 47% said that their organization’s culture emphasizes it. More importantly, this survey also showed that many senior leaders were not prepared to demonstrate – and consistently lead – an empathic organization. Professional development of the competencies associated with empathy, along with efforts to improve listening, social, and emotional intelligence skills, have been identified as crucial for companies to flourish in this evolving environment. Developing these skills within leadership at all levels of the organization is essential for future success.
Leading the Hybrid Work Strategy
One change that most employees experienced during the pandemic was the option to “work remotely.” Whether working from home or meeting in a different environment, many employees experienced a different “work setting” during the height of COVID-19. As organizations move forward, Harvard Business notes, many companies have begun instituting a “hybrid” approach to work. Although these hybrid approaches vary between companies, they generally include the option of allowing employees to work remotely for at least two days per week. Many employees have continued to work remotely for 100%, or nearly 100%, of the time. Resulting from these changes is the need to establish proficient leadership in a new business landscape. Harvard Business has found that the hurdle companies are now facing is not simply balancing work and life but maintaining that balance while keeping pace with the evolving learning opportunities, which are vital to remaining proficient on the job.
What does all of this mean for the leaders of today and tomorrow? According to Harvard’s experts, today’s leaders must be adept at leading through unexpected events. Leaders will need to increase their learning agility, and also strengthen their management capabilities. One thing is certain. The many unexpected challenges that all companies faced these past few years will continue to significantly impact how everyone operates in their work situation. And the leaders who can best adapt will be the ones who lead the most successful companies.
Joseph Gier, Ph.D. is Vice President – Consulting Services at E.A.S.I-Consult®, and is a licensed Psychologist. E.A..SI-Consult® works with Fortune 500 companies, government agencies, and mid-sized organizations to provide customized Talent Management solutions. Utilizing scientific approaches, E.A.S.I.-Consult® provides superior results to Business – Driven by Science. Our specialties include leadership and leadership potential assessment, online employment assessment, customized skills assessment, competency modeling, leadership development, executive coaching, 360-degree feedback, online structured interviews, and EEO hiring compliance. The company is a leader in the field of providing accurate information about people through professional assessment. To learn more about E.A.S.I.-Consult®, visit www.easiconsult.com, email ContactUs@easiconsult.com or call 800.922.EASI.