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11 skills leaders will need for the new era of work

25 Nov 2020

Hays’ Christoph Niewerth highlights some of the most critical skills leaders will need while navigating the post-Covid working world.

Once the immediate tests posed by the pandemic have subsided, leaders will have to be equipped to succeed in a significantly transformed world of work – one in which remote, hybrid and flexible working practices will be the cornerstones of the new normal. So, what are some of the top skills leaders will need?

1. EQ

Emotional intelligence – also sometimes called EQ or EI – is the ability to manage our emotions, which enables us to better handle crisis situations. The social and emotional skills that make up our EQ will be crucial if leaders are to make the best decisions and build the best relationships possible amid the constant change, uncertainty and instability of the post-Covid world of work.

An emotionally intelligent leader has a strong understanding of their own and other people’s emotions, with the ability to manage them successfully.

2. Self-reflection

Self-reflection leads to better self-awareness. It means adopting a regular habit of mindfulness and self-review. By routinely taking time to reflect on their skills, strengths, weaknesses and behavioural patterns, as well as how they may be perceived by others, leaders are better able to tell the difference between their own perception of a situation and the situation as it objectively is.

Reflecting will also help them to develop better critical-thinking skills and to more accurately identify what their people need from them. Both will be crucial skills for leaders in the new era of work.

3. Agility

Leaders will need to continue taking an agile and adaptable approach, combining flexible thinking with good forward planning. That must include putting multiple plans in place for achieving objectives so that whatever circumstances your organisation faces, it always has several potential solutions at its disposal.

Take the steps now to devise contingency plans that will help your business navigate the new challenges posed by the ever-evolving post-pandemic world of work. But be ready to pivot them quickly and in a completely different direction, if required.

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4. Communication

Leaders in the new era of work need to be authentic, clear and regular communicators. They must also be honest and vulnerable, with an ability to admit that they don’t have all of the answers but are working hard to find them.

You will also need to adjust your communication for the new era of the hybrid team. You will need to maintain clear and fair lines of communication with both groups of employees so that every team member feels equally included in your organisation’s mission.

5. A creative approach to solving problems

It has long been argued that it is crisis and limitation, rather than stability and freedom, that most help to spur on creativity and innovation.

One of the key lessons of the last few months is that leaders cannot depend on always being able to do things the way they have always done them. Even if they do not proactively innovate themselves, changing circumstances and needs are likely to eventually force their hand. Now, then, is the time to lay a new path.

6. Critical thinking

Contrary to common belief, the term ‘critical thinking’ does not mean quite the same as intelligence, although intelligence is a component of critical thinking. After all, we’ve probably all met people who were good at summoning up obscure information or resolving complex mathematical equations, but who often made poor decisions.

In this new and unpredictable era, we all need to show greater willingness to routinely question our own thought patterns. By using our critical-thinking skills to explore every conceivable leadership problem from every possible angle, we can place ourselves in a better position to devise the right solutions.

7. Inclusiveness

One key change that the pandemic has certainly brought to the world of work is a surge in remote working. And as we’ve moved through the crisis, we have seen the introduction of hybrid teams where some workers are office-based and others home-based.

It has never been more important lead teams in an inclusive way, ensuring every member of the team feels they are of value.

8. Dedication to lifelong learning

In the new era of work, the best leaders will be committed to their own lifelong learning and role-modelling those learning behaviours within their organisations.

Key to this will be encouraging employees to develop a growth mindset, where they are always on the lookout for new opportunities to add to their skills. So, be a role model and commit to your own continuous lifelong learning.

9. Smart risk-taking

The ability to take well-reasoned, calculated risks has always been an important component of leadership. Leaders should not confuse it with genuinely reckless risk-taking that combines high risk with low potential reward.

In the new era of work, however, this skill has probably become even more pivotal. After all, this is a time of considerable uncertainty and ongoing evolution in the corporate landscape. Leaders need to be ready to take opportunities as they arise, which will always involve an element of risk taking and venturing into the unknown.

10. Resilience

It is impossible for even the most effective leader to only ever experience success in their life and career. All leaders encounter setbacks from time to time. In order to overcome these disappointments and failures, you will need to build personal resilience.

The turbulence that many organisations have faced in the coronavirus crisis has simply underlined the longstanding importance of leaders being able to function well under pressure. A resilient leader sees the opportunity in every failure, faces obstacles head on and has a great ability to draw strength from within themselves for the most challenging moments in their life and work.

11. Authenticity

Successful business is all about human connection. So, your leadership approach shouldn’t be cold and impersonal; it should feel human and authentic.

Despite the highly interconnected nature of today’s technological world, we seem to be in danger of losing, instead of gaining, that sense of human connection. We are a naturally social species and the post-pandemic era of work will force us to work together to determine effective routes forward.

Restoring authenticity and a sense of human connection to their employees’ experience of work must be one of the key priorities for leaders in the coming months and years. Leaders should also be unafraid to show vulnerability. Opening up to your workers about your feelings, concerns and goals could actually help you to set an important example of honesty and trust.

By Christoph Niewerth

Christoph Niewerth is on the board of Hays Germany. A version of this article previously appeared on the Hays Viewpoint blog.

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