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People & Culture

Leadership in a Time of Unprecedented Change


The crises and conflicts we’re faced with today have irreversibly changed the way we work and modified the skillset required of managers and executives. The pandemic, in particular, has acted as a hyper-accelerating catalyst for trends that otherwise would have taken several more years to reach this point. And there is no going back.

When society faces unparalleled challenges, the situation can at the same time feel both crushing but also inspiring. During the past two years, we’ve seen organizations adopting new practices, and companies coming up with new solutions and services that earlier would have been unimaginable to pull through in such a short time frame. At the same time, the polarization of societies has accelerated alarmingly fast, partly due to the unfairness of how the Covid age has hit different countries, industries and families. Leaders need to be mindful of these varying realities when guiding their organizations forward, and that rational reasoning alone is not enough to bring everyone along.

1. Communication skills and empathy as change enablers

Leadership communication skills are the key for creating clarity on how we aim to succeed tomorrow, or survive through the hardships of today. To get our message heard, we need a heightened sense of empathy to understand the diverse perspectives of others and adapt communication styles for different audiences and settings. We also need to be transparent, when we don’t know all the answers - and have the courage to show our own vulnerability in the face of an uncertain future.

2. Fostering psychological safety and resilience

Research has shown that fostering psychological safety and resilience in the workplace leads to more adaptive and high-performing teams. People should feel that they can be their authentic selves at work and that they are accepted as they are. A working culture that puts employee well-being and work-life balance first, and invests in building a feeling of communality, is stronger and more able to withstand even the most challenging of times.

3. Acknowledging the inclusion challenge of hybrid work

New ways to organize ourselves around work have come to stay, and leaders must understand the delicate dynamics of people situated in different locations, with varying cultures and personal situations. Many companies had been working in geographically dispersed teams already before the pandemic, but the transition of almost all of our team interactions into some kind of hybrid working model is easily leaving people into unequal positions to participate and interact. This requires leaders to promote more advanced facilitation skills and put much more emphasis on jointly agreed working principles in their organizations. Also, the proper use of sufficient collaboration technology needs to be supported, while keeping in mind that the tech alone will not solve the inclusion challenge.

These exceptional times have not changed the fundamentals of good leadership. But the need to adapt fast to any respective situation has impacted all organizations and societies - many of which have been used to operating in a more stable and at least somewhat predictable environment. Skills to lead change and help organizations navigate toward an uncertain future will continue to be in great demand going forward as well.

We need more empathy, broader perspectives and dialogue in a world that is increasingly promoting black and white thinking. We also need to recognize that in the new working environment, change leadership and creating an inclusive collaboration culture requires new skills and awareness to get everybody on the same playing field with equal terms.