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Leadership is in crisis

From the desk of Zafirah Jeetoo,

Training & Education Partner, Pierpoint Financial

The world is in a state of turmoil. Fact.


Every day we hear about global leaders - from political leaders to business leaders, who are making some of the most challenging, decisions of their careers, knowing their choices will impact thousands, if not millions. How many of us have discussed with families and friends, what good leadership is and, what good leadership looks like in this pandemic? We have despaired at some decisions and celebrated others made by our politicians and CEO's. We have discussed issues closer to home about how our business leaders and managers have handled situations in our own workplaces.


Our reality


We are all living through this difficult time in the world's history and fighting our own battles personally and professionally. It is reasonable to express that populations and businesses alike, are looking for leadership that recognises our fears, concerns and anxiety about the future.


Although many of us are working remotely or have had to adapt to social distancing at work, the apprehension we feel about what is on the horizon, the unknown quantity of the effects of the pandemic on health and wealth weighs heavily on all our minds. We may have questions such as: How is the company doing? Is my job secure? Am I performing well enough to not lose my job? What if I get sick? I have listened to many citing these questions, questions that keep them up at night.


There is a tremendous amount of anxiety within our teams, and leaders are perhaps not equipped or skilled to wrestle with the complexity of these fears in the current climate of uncertainty. This is not a criticism but an observation. We've never been in a global pandemic before, we've never seen humanity brought so low with such loss of life, such sorrow and the economic fallout from it all. Therefore, we can't expect our leaders and managers to naturally know how to manage their teams to boost morale and keep performance and productivity high given the problem's magnitude.


A new breed of leadership within the workplace


In times of crisis, we need a different leadership type, both on a global scale and closer to home in the workplace. Let's concentrate on leadership and management in organisations. It is imperative for leadership to acknowledge the mood of its workforce, and that it actively works on tackling the concerns raised and worries that might be more difficult to uncover. I know the latter is difficult to get to, but leaders have to be forward-thinking and proactive in this respect.


For example, as we head into a deeper recession, there is an indication that organisations are becoming leaner, and so much more is being asked of leaders and managers, such as redefining goals, handling change, having difficult conversations and managing remote workers all under the threat of mutating coronavirus. Therefore, if current organisational processes and systems are steeped in hierarchy and leadership styles that are autocratic and transactional then they are putting themselves at a disadvantage because they do not understand how to get the best out of its human capital. Quite simply put, the health and well-being of your staff is your strength and could be your competitive advantage.



The scope of Learning and Development in Leadership programmes


This is where I feel that learning and development (L&D) is an asset to be deployed to champion this new class of fundamental leadership training. The L&D function can support the leadership and management development requirements of organisations by making sense of market and workforce challenges both present and future. L&D functions could critically assess if the current business processes and systems are aligned with what is required of managers and business leaders thereby providing a road map to solve these questions.


Thus, the remit of the L&D function is to create and develop L&D initiatives that will up-skill managers and leaders as the whole organisation will be looking to the L&D function to provide the solution. We, as L&D practitioners, should be prepared to establish a dialogue with our business leaders armed with data gathered by speaking to those managing teams – after all, they are on the frontlines.


The aim should be to weave emotional intelligence and transformational leadership programmes that pay attention to the needs of staff in harmony with the organisation’s strategy/goals and implement training opportunities that fit. Behavioural change can only be achieved if there is a cohesive attitude across the organisation to embrace another level of leadership style that fits today's situation.


Updating leadership competency framework


Furthermore, I would suggest that current competency frameworks do not match the prevailing socio-economic and business environment and must be adapted to give leaders and managers the skills to measure the temperature of their teams and validate strategies accordingly. Organisations must realise that without re-designing such frameworks, best practices, the evaluation/appraisal of leaders/managers will be ineffective and could lead to management and leadership that does not work to meet the challenges of this testing period in every organisation's history.


My next article will delve deeper into some of the issues our workforce are facing and propose some thought leadership ideas organisations can use to update their leadership training and turn ideas into reality to evolve the leadership function.


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