‘It's lonely at the top"—a phrase most of us have heard in our leadership journey. And today, when our business world has increasingly become digital, most leaders lead remotely while balancing the hybrid work culture.
Now, it's lonely all the way.
As I write this article 35,000 feet above the ground, sitting on the Emirates flight returning to India after speaking at an IT conference in Dubai, I reflect on the progress we have made in technology.
At the conference, I met Joe, a senior leader who had been working for eight years with this manufacturing company. Due to the work culture going remote during the pandemic and hybrid these days, Joe has been frustrated as the pandemic seems to wean off.
He hated this fast-paced technological development and having to see his teams only twice a week. He had tried getting his team back to the workplace, but every attempt, from a pizza party to an outdoor retreat, failed.
His team had given him a clear signal of their choice to work from home. And Joe finds it difficult to build a rapport and trust with his people. His conflicts with his team have increased. He is constantly checking on them to see if the work is complete. There is no rapport between him and his new colleagues.
And work has become so transactional.
Joe often feels lonely, working from home most of the time. And so Joe and other leaders at this conference asked me a thoughtful question; "Payal, What is the most important quality for leading in a hybrid environment?" Some might say it's integrity. Others might say it's a good motivator. While some believe it's a whole set of new skills.
I advise most leaders to have the following to lead effectively in a hybrid setting. One of the most important traits you can have as a leader is the ability to monitor yourself. When you monitor your own emotions and reactions, it allows you to better react to situations or people of any kind.
Leading virtually requires a whole new strategy to maintain connections, foster trust, and provide feedback. Even something as basic as "how do I know they're working?" requires a new strategy.
In a hybrid environment, our physical interactions with people have reduced considerably. Add to this, the stress that comes with achieving deadlines.
And so, for you to be a leader who can motivate the team, build better trust and collaborate with various stakeholders, it is imperative to be more responsive to your people’s needs, be more empathetic, and more accommodating—in short, humanize the leadership process. And this begins when you are self-aware.
When you are self-aware, here is what happens:
- You begin to work more on improving yourself
- You build empathy
- You can better connect with your people
- You will be more mindful of your conversations
- You will build trust
- Be realistic in their expectations
- Enable peak performance from your employees.
To effectively manage teams working remotely or with a hybrid approach, leaders must begin to humanize leadership, a concept I teach at companies. As a leader, your leadership effectiveness requires you to humanize the entire leadership process. There needs to be a shift from the "doing" to "being."