Rethinking Leadership for a Post Pandemic World
While leading during the COVID-19 pandemic definitely had its share of challenges, leaders will find themselves facing all new challenges as they move into a post-pandemic period.
“For many leaders, the pandemic was trial by fire for learning to manage remotely,” says Valérie Vangeel, Leadership Practice Leader at Solvay Business School – Executive Education. “Whereas the pandemic era was very much manager focused, the post-pandemic era calls for inspirational and authentic leadership.”
But this is where the challenge – or in this case challenges – lie. According to a recent survey of Solvay Brussels School alumni, as things slowly begin to open up and teams move back from home to office cubicles, leaders will face a whole new set of unique challenges.
A Little of This, A Little of That
Nobody will argue, managing remote teams was difficult. But what do you do when some of your team is at home and others are in the office?
“Figuring out how to lead hybrid teams will be one of the first challenges leaders face as offices reopen,” explains Vangeel.
Even though this hybrid mode will be difficult, it’s also a huge opportunity. According to Vangeel, leaders should take advantage of this chance to rethink – even rebuild – the way they work with their team. When is collaboration needed and when is independent work ok? Does your team need to be in the office? When and where should work happen? Do the same rules need to apply to everyone all of the time?
“In the post-pandemic world, everything is on the table,” says Vangeel.
A New Breed of Cohesion
Another leadership challenge will be re-establishing cohesion following a period of increased individualism.
“Discovering, or re-discovering, what the team’s purpose is will be essential to re-establishing cohesion,” notes Vangeel. “And it falls squarely on the shoulders of leaders to start their team on this journey.”
Leaders have a unique opportunity to (re)create their company or team culture based on (new) shared values, and then translate these values into actual, real, and observable behaviours.
“The challenge is to do this both in a hybrid work environment and in a manner that takes into account an individual’s need for purpose,” adds Vangeel. “But this too is more of an opportunity than a challenge - an opportunity to rethink what teams stand for and what one, as an individual, brings to the team.”
A Balancing Act
During the pandemic’s lockdowns, people could either ‘Netflix and chill’ after working hours or just work, work, and then work some more.
“The challenge for leaders now is to figure out how to leverage this work from home energy while also helping their team find balance,” notes Vangeel.
Vangeel goes on to explain how this requires more than looking towards the traditional notion of a work-life balance.
“People get energy from other people, but they also get energy from focused, independent work,” she says. “With everybody’s energy mix being different, it will be a real challenge to create a hybrid work model that provides the right balance for everyone.”
The New Normal is Not Back to Normal
When teams moved to work from home in early 2020, the command-and-control approach went out the door. But as people begin to move back to the office setting, this unruly beast may want back in too.
“It would be a real pity to go back to old command-and-control habits,” says Vangeel. “Considering the amount of autonomy that people have taken over their work, I think leaders attempting to reinstate such methods will come up against a lot of resistance.”
This highlights perhaps what will prove to be the post-pandemic’s biggest challenge: accepting that the new normal is not back to normal.
“The new normal is a hybrid in and of itself, one that takes the best of the pre-pandemic workplace and combines it with the best practices we learned while working remotely,” explains Vangeel. “Leaders must take concrete steps to not simply go back to what they did before.”
The challenges that leaders face today are too complex to go it alone. As such, collaboration is a must. But collaboration requires one to acknowledge their weaknesses, accept the uncertain, and show their vulnerabilities – in other words, it requires one to be authentic.
“Authenticity opens the door to inspiration,” concludes Vangeel. “If you can inspire your team - show them that although you do not have all the answers you are confident that, together, you can face the (uncertain) future - you’ll be able to successfully lead them into the new normal of a post-pandemic world.”
Ready to Inspire and Lead the New Normal?
This year’s Solvay Brussels School Summer Leadership Camp is designed to provide you with the skills you need to inspire and lead in a post-pandemic world.