Leadership skills haven’t changed much in some ways. In others, we’re at a whole new turn in the road for organizations as they learn how to manage teams remotely, as they grapple with issues of transmitting corporate culture without so much physical proximity. What we knew before March 2020 must be checked, edited, revised, and maybe just plain thrown out. So what can we do? What should we do? What does it take to be a great leader now?
Leadership Skills for After the Pandemic
The top qualities of an effective leader revolve these days circle a “Big 3” traits to focus on: communication, collaboration, and configuration. When you see those three topics, your first response is likely: “What? I do all that. I know all about that.” But it’s different these days. I’ll explain.
Communication – The new rule of communicating and being a leader involves brevity and clarity. In writing and verbally, learn to be crisp and clear. Start at the “ask” or the most important point. Chop out explanations and segues. One topic per message.
Collaboration – Bring part of the project, and let the team fill in the rest. Embrace and encourage a diversity of thought. Motivate team members to share their experience as it applies to the project. Inspire team members to own some of the leadership tasks of any given experience.
Configuration – Factories are over. Leading like you run a factory is over. Teams and leaders must embrace more chances to make work what they need it to be. The Work From Home (WFH) elements of COVID-19 showed that office hours didn’t exactly have to be synchronous. What else can be configured differently? Do you need people to live near the office any longer? If not, what else has to change?
As leaders work on their own efforts with communication, collaboration, and configuration, so too will team members need to learn more about how to do the same. Distributed teams means remote leadership and personal leadership become quite important to everyone. Not only will management skills need to exist at the individual contributor level, but also the competencies of listening, delegation and strong interpersonal skills will hinge on being able to improve in the three big Cs.
Good Leaders Inspire Action. Great Leaders Grow More Leaders.
Gone is the fear that you as a boss have to know everything. Empathy and self-awareness become much more important, as do a strong emotional intelligence as well as the humility to presume that you don’t always have the best answer, and that maybe your team members do.
Develop your leadership by growing more leaders. Invite team members to take parts of a project as their responsibility. But empower and educate them a little bit first. The leadership skills necessary to run parts of your business aren’t immediately obvious. (Remember when you started?) Teach them the Three Big Cs above. Everyone needs those. And here are a few more leadership skills to encourage strategic thinking.
If this, then what? – Teach your budding leaders to walk through decisions before taking the action. In his book “It’s Your Ship,” Captain Michael Abrashoff teaches as part of his leadership method the concept of “I intend to.” It’s a level of leadership where team members don’t execute without permission but where they bring their recommended path of action for review by saying, “I intend to take the following action.”
Which decisions need making? – Team members sometimes burn time not knowing which parts of business need more thorough decision making and which don’t merit the time spent. Sometimes, aspiring leaders weigh the strengths and weaknesses of every possible step of a project, instead of knowing which parts can be accepted as a given, or which can be ignored. Teach your aspiring leadership candidates the skill of knowing which parts of a project need a solid decision making system.
Is this aligned with the ultimate goal? – Some people as they attempt successful leadership get far too stuck in task oriented mindsets. Instead, drive goal-level leadership at all turns. Ensure that tasks completed are only valuable if they advance the goal and that filling out a checklist every day isn’t nearly as valuable as moving a project towards a timely and cost effective solution.
Inspire Two-Way Mentorship
As the leader of a team, make it clear that you thrive on developing your team. But also, be just as clear that you seek to learn from the diverse wealth of backgrounds your team employs. Be open to learning new approaches, to understanding different cultural and skill experiences. Actively seek out this two-way mentorship and guidance. Build it into how you spend team time on projects. The rewards will be remarkable.