Why a renewed focus on leadership is important for those leading the workforce of the future

For the majority of businesses, leadership development is not a priority. And it hasn’t been for many years. Back in 2015, the State of Leadership Development report by research firm the Brandon Hall Group found that only 1 in 5 organisations considered leadership to be critical for business development. One year later, the Harvard Business Leadership Development survey claimed that just 7% of organisations believed that their approach to leadership development was excellent. So, have things changed?

Somewhat- but there is still an opportunity to do much more. As businesses struggle with economic uncertainty and focus on rapidly adapting to different ways of working and engaging with clients and customers, a focus on leadership may not feel like a bigger priority. Herein lies an opportunity for those leading the workforce of the future

A renewed focus on leadership can help a business to confront leadership and management challenges and turn them into opportunities. A focus on leadership gives organisations the surefooted direction needed to plot a profitable, productive path through the evolving world of work. It means hybrid teams and new technologies can be embraced and leveraged to better achieve goals. A renewed focus on leadership also means teams are given the tools and strategies required to engage with clients on a deeper level; and that means stronger relationships, elite sales performance and the attainment of business goals. 

The shifting role of leaders

The idea that leadership isn’t critical can be dangerous. By failing to prioritise leadership, businesses will find it difficult - if not impossible - to attract, engage, motivate, and derive full value from the workforce of the future. 

When thinking about leadership, many organisations look backwards; they look at the traditional definition of leadership and struggle to align this definition with today’s business landscape. This can be a missed opportunity as the role of the leader has changed considerably in recent times. 

The role of the leader is no longer to direct; it's no longer to tell teams what to do. The role has evolved, and today leadership is focused not on direction but on guidance. A humanistic management style supports and engages team members to ensure they’re always motivated and delivering their best. In an uncertain business landscape, getting the most from teams will be the key to success. 

A renewed focus on leadership is so important for leading the workforce of the future for many reasons. We’ve outlined and explored four of the most crucial reasons below:

1. Leaders drive energy & engagement

Businesses haven’t been the biggest victims of the pandemic: people have. In fact, a large number of businesses have been able to maintain some level of core operations. Even those industries that have been hit hardest, such as restaurants and retailers, have been able to shift operations online to continue offering a service, even if that service is not exactly the same as it was before. 

The people side of things has been different. People haven’t been quite so resilient. They’re facing financial uncertainty, they’re concerned about their health, they’ve been forced into unknown remote working environments… they’re struggling. Now, more than ever, good leadership is essential for driving energy and engagement. Good leadership is key to building experiences that create happy people who perform better. 

2. Leaders align team and business

Aligning the personal goals of employees with the ultimate overall mission of the business is something that has always been tricky. Today, it’s harder still – though not impossible for the modern leader. The pandemic has created a larger than ever gap between the objectives of organisations, and the objectives of the people that those organisations rely on for success. The ‘every man for himself’ frame of mind won’t succeed in the long term. 

Businesses need to look out for themselves; they need to save, and they need to cut back in order to invest in recovery efforts. At the same time, these cutbacks could hurt the essential talent needed for production. Good leadership is the glue that maintains the vital connection between teams and the c-suite. Leaders are the crucial middlemen who keep business and people objectives aligned for harmony on both sides. 

3. Leaders make sense of reality

It's not surprising to learn that workplace mental health has been impacted by the events of 2020. While the risk of illness itself is hard to live with, the fact that people haven't been able to take vacations, to see family, to have confidence in their professional future has naturally provoked feelings of stress, anxiety and unhappiness. Good leadership has the power to counteract this and turn those negatives into a shared experience that brings the team together and offers support. 

Good leadership based on transparency, communication, and involvement works to help teams see hope and direction through the cloud. Good leadership better connects people with the businesses they work for, removing the ‘what ifs’ and ensuring that all employees remain up-to-date with real-time changes across the business, keeping them in the loop, and minimising the concerns that many are facing today. 

4. Leaders bring new meaning to VUCA

Volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity… VUCA has never been more apparent than it is today. VUCA is everywhere in the modern business landscape, and it's something that holds the potential to devastate businesses and their people. However, good leadership brings new meaning to this rather gloomy acronym, creating a symbol of hope and optimism. 

Good leaders provide Vision. They have an understanding of reality. They form Connections between the business and the workforce. And they are agile enough to adapt to any possible scenario. Good leadership really can shift the traditional meaning of VUCA to something more powerful and meaningful given today’s situation. Good leaders are the answer to VUCA that we’ve all been tirelessly searching for! 

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