2022 was the year we were all supposed to return to our offices in full force. However, the reality seems very different. Most big cities still have offices that continue to stay empty half the time. Bloomberg journalist Sarah Green Michael says, “The office seems to have become a place we are always returning to but never quite arriving”. Hybrid work is here to stay, just like hybrid leadership.
Last year was also the year of learning how to adapt, to pivot from the great resignation to the great reshuffle, and to the present-day term of what many refer to as “Quiet Quitting”.
Clearly, our assumptions have been challenged, and our socio-economic fabric has been upended and altered in unimaginable ways. While we may get nostalgic for the old normal, we know it’s not coming back. Our success as leaders lies in adapting to this new normal, in embracing these lessons, and in constantly integrating them into our leadership arsenal as we move forward.
For me, 2023 is the year of putting people at the centre of all that we do as leaders. Our employees, customers and partners. Here are eight leadership lessons to embrace in 2023 and beyond.
Leaders need to continue to build high levels of resilience in themselves and their teams by taking charge of how they think about crisis and adversity. Resilient managers have to be nimble and show swiftness in taking decisions (even when they do not know the answers) and move from analysis to a plan of action (and reaction). The best leaders use crisis as an opportunity to flatten leadership and delegate decision-making for greater agility.
This mindset change requires leaders to shift away from complicated thinking and consciously inculcate complexity consciousness. An HBR article defines complicated problems as those that require linear thinking —these problems can be predicted or avoided because we have experienced them before. In stark contrast, complex problems cannot be predicted and the path to getting there resides in the realm of the unknown. One way to do that is by constantly seeking diverse opinions, and giving people a voice
Automation, artificial intelligence, cloud computing and data analytics etc are emerging digital competencies leaders giving them a competitive edge by boosting innovation. Leaders that stay updated by embracing new technologies and who encourage their people to do the same will be truly ahead of the game.
Listen and empathise more
Leaders need to listen more to their people. Active listening is about listening to assimilate, and not listening to react. Employees need to know that leaders understand them and most importantly they care. Good leaders have to find that delicate balance between giving their team space while constantly challenging them to grow and improve their skills.
A growth mindset
Psychologist Carol Dweck (who coined this term) divides the world between learners and non-learners. She believes that demonstrating a fixed mindset is limiting —a growth mindset, on the other hand, propels people forward. Microsoft’s culture, according to CEO Satya Nadella, centers on the belief that everyone can grow and develop; potential is nurtured, not predetermined, and anyone can change their mindset. Good leaders build cultures where people feel safe and can learn from iterations of trial and error.
Strengthen the trust equation
According to an HBR study, the most important thing that holds back executives from reaching to the top is their inability to forge and maintain trusting relationships. “From an employee perspective, consider that more than 60% of workers say senior management-employee trust is paramount to their satisfaction. That’s because high-trust environments allow people to be their true selves, and when people can bring their whole selves to work, they are not only more creative, but more productive as well.”
Focus on mental well-being
The scars of the pandemic still remain, and the wounds are still raw for many. This collective trauma has exacerbated burnout and prompted many people to reevaluate their priorities. The World Health Organisation estimates that anxiety and depression cost the global economy upwards of $1 trillion annually. In 2023, leaders must focus on creating a workplace culture that supports mental health and wellness.
Diversity and inclusion
Today more than ever, leaders need to focus on genuinely building a diverse pool of talent and ensuring everyone feels included. Leaders can do that by continuing to create psychological safety, fuel collaboration, foster trust, and, most importantly, promote transparency in the new hybrid workplace that is here to stay.
Finally, be a leader coach - the world needs it more than ever
Move away from a culture of instruction towards motivation. Coach your employees by asking powerful questions and, collectively, finding the “right” answers. Strive to build an ecosystem where all your people, regardless of the size of their teams or seniority, can contribute and flourish. Become a leader coach that constantly enables, engages, elevates, and empowers. Remember, the best leaders are those that create more leaders.
2022 brought us chaos, but also the opportunity to review, renew, and advance. Read the end-2022 issue of People Matters Digital Magazine for a look back, and some key takeaways to bring forward.