Inner Circle Spring 2021: The Future of Leadership for a New World of Work
As the crisis-fueled frenzy of the past year begins to abate, we can now take stock of the monumental shifts happening in the leadership space. We’ve observed many new leadership traits and approaches emerging in response to the once-in-a-lifetime pandemic, which has forever altered the standard profile of leadership. We brought together a group of progressive leaders for an engaging discussion.
Hosted and moderated by Moses Mohan, Head of Global Leadership Solutions for Potential Project, this panel also included:
- Tim Munden, Chief Learning Officer, Unilever
- Ginny Chequer, Global Director of Leader & Team Development, People & Communities, Cisco
- Rasmus Hougaard, Founder and CEO, Potential Project
The conversation focused on what skills and traits leaders will need in the new world of work, and one very common theme emerged: the human side of leaders and their teams is where we need to focus now. According to a recent study, 55% of CEOs report that developing future generation of leaders is their primary critical concern. This conversation took a deep dive into how we can make that happen.
The Great Humanization of Leadership
It’s no secret that the pandemic caused a major shift in our world of work. Leaders, historically focused on the bottom line, have had to learn to care for all parts of their peoples’ lives across myriad experiences and realities. While many people were working at home, others had to show up in the factories day after day. While some remained safe and largely untouched by the severity of the pandemic, others experienced periods of tremendous grief, isolation, and loss.
As leaders, needing to address each individual’s personal reality really brought to life what leadership is all about: meeting the needs of the organization, but also meeting the needs of human beings within it.
Working from home, with interruptions from pets, children, spouses, or just the factors of everyday life, has been a normalizing and humanizing experience for leaders. It’s introduced a very human aspect into the picture, and now that it’s been exposed, it will be impossible for leaders not to take that into account moving forward. “It's such a different world now, one where we can be more ourselves and authentic in how we show up,”said Rasmus.
New Traits for a New World of Work
When turning the conversation towards how leaders will need to be equipped for this new world of work, we polled the audience: In 1 word, what is the most important leadership trait in the new world of work?
A clear theme emerged: we need to focus on our own humanness, and all the qualities that go along with it. Compassion especially, the ability to show genuine care for others, will be paramount.
Tim expressed his gratitude for having the inner game and outer game language within his organization as they found their way through the pandemic. Both terms are commonplace within Unilever to describe the journey of inner and outer work, and how they go together. For Tim, the key focus moving forward should be on awareness, and how leaders can cultivate their faculty of awareness and use that newfound presence in the moment to be more compassionate, caring, kind, and vulnerable with one another. “We can't control what's happening around us, but we can control our response,” said Tim.
ForGinny and her team at Cisco, the disconnected nature of remote working during the pandemic enabled great conversations to occur about what was happening for individuals both personally and across the organization. Ginny introduced the term emotional literacy, which she describes as the ability to connect with your own emotions in a way that enables you to connect with others. “You can’t be empathetic and compassionate without that ability to first know your own emotions and be with your own emotions. Building a capability around emotional literacy is something that is top of mind for us, along with a willingness to learn, and having a growth mindset. We all need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.”
Using Self-Care as a Foundation for Leadership Transformation
So how do you implement this kind of organizational change? All of the panelists agreed that the first step is to go inwards and place the focus on getting to know, and taking better care of, yourself. “We're often so busy giving our attention to the people that we serve that we don't always do it for ourselves,” said Ginny. But to be the best leaders, we actually need to prioritize our own needs.