Let us keep the pandemic aside for a moment and go back to pre-Covid times. A McKinsey article published last year had this to say:
Even before the global health crisis hit, 92 percent of company leaders surveyed by McKinsey thought that their business model would not remain viable at the rates of digitization at that time. The pandemic just put that whole scenario on steroids.”
Let us not forget that data and technology were shifting companies rapidly towards a brave, new digital world even before Covid 19. The pandemic only hastened the transformation.
It is easy to visualise leadership development as an experienced leader putting a fatherly arm around the shoulder of a promising recruit, or mid-level manager, giving valuable lessons on how to be a better leader. The reality, though, is that many leaders hardly get to meet their proteges in person.
So how does a modern-day leader implement leadership development in this digital world? Here are three insights on doing it effectively –
This might sound like the very opposite of what you just read. It is, and the reason also happens to be the same. Because so much is getting done virtually, it becomes all the more important for a leader to remain a human for the employee, and not an image on the screen or a voice on the phone. This can be done even without physically meeting each other. You could host team building or business simulations to equip your team with leadership skills. But spend some time sharing your own experiences and advice too.
Back in the day, a manager could see her team in action every day. That helped bring gaps in behavioral or technical skills to the fore. However, now a leader is mostly seeing the team virtually. This makes the outcome the only way to assess how well a potential team member is shaping up.
If a leader wishes to measure inputs (for example, number of sales calls made) instead, the digital world makes it easy to hide the truth or propagate an untruth. That is why leaders need to resist the temptation of tracking progress very frequently. Micromanagement can prove to be counter-productive, more than ever before.
Organisations that are embracing the digital life, need collaboration of a different kind. Teams won’t get to spend the night in a conference room with endless cups of coffee, deliberating future plans and strategies. The leader of the future needs to adapt their leadership style, accordingly. This will inspire the rest of the team to evolve, as well. Get your team used to getting things done with virtual collaboration, whether internally or with external stakeholders.
Leadership was never an easy task. With the lightning speed of change in every aspect of business today, it has only increased in complexity. You must grab this opportunity that the pandemic has brought, and recast your team members in the mold of future leaders of a digital world.