The Changing Role of the Leader in 2021 and Beyond…

Den FInal

To say that 2020 saw the skills of every leader tested would be a huge understatement, COVID-19 really saw the divide between great and weaker leadership widen.

We spoke with Den Currie, currently Engagement Director at any-3, to gain her thoughts on the changing role of the leader in 2021 and what skills and abilities would be key in driving business performance, achieving business goals whilst ensuring maximum engagement. With so many leaders and employees feeling Covid fatigue at this point, it’s crucial that companies acknowledge this and increase their support.

Few would argue that 2020 has one of the most challenging years for many businesses – and not just in the UK but worldwide.  Leaders and people managers have been put to the test like no other year. Many companies have offered extra support in way of learning and manager development but not all.

Leaders and managers have been trying to do their job whilst most of their team sits at home or is working remotely – and that presents a very unique challenge.  Many of those leaders don’t have specific skills in how to lead, motivate, engage and manage performance from afar. Companies that are showing signs of success are the ones who quickly harnessed technology and supported their managers in how to manage performance remotely.  A Berkshire based telco company quickly offered every people manager weekly sessions on top tips and techniques in how to spot signs of fatigue, and how to deal with performance issues remotely.  They are one of very few companies where their surveys show that confidence in leaders has actually grown since the pandemic began.

In fact, for years now many companies have been slow to overhaul their leadership frameworks to reflect the role of the Digital Leader in today’s world. Successful companies did this when they saw the percentage of revenue coming from digital sales first overtook traditional revenue streams – as early as 2013.  When they analysed digital impact they moved to update the Leadership framework with new skills and capabilities, changing the learning and development they offered accordingly.

It’s been over 8 years now since company revenues across the UK switched to have over 50% of their revenue from digital platforms overtaking traditional revenue streams – but few companies have updated the frameworks that their leaders need in order to thrive in this new world.  This has been accelerated in 2020 with the swing to managing remotely and most people will agree that remote working in some form (hybrid working), will become a permanent feature in the future.

The skills and abilities in managing teams remotely are subtly different to those of the traditional people manager, the following list is not exhaustive but gives an idea of the current areas that our people managers and leaders need to be experts in …

  • High level of digital literacy
  • Data driven
  • Cultural dexterity and intelligence
  • Rapid adaptability
  • Leader as a coach
  • Strategic mindset
  • Social connection skills
  • High levels of self-awareness, seeks feedback
  • Continuous learning agility
  • Resilience/Mental Toughness
  • Uses predictive analysis
  • Engagement and motivation
  • Collaborative and networks remotely

Right now, forward- thinking HR teams are working on this and asking themselves questions like – are the learning solutions we have still viable? How can we better keep on-site workers connected with remote workers? Do we need to re-think our salary frameworks as hiring remote workers from lower paid regions could replace London or higher paid employees?  Should we reduce our office footprint?  How can get our managers to manage and judge output rather than hours spent in the office? How do we support managers of remote workers to spot wellbeing or mental health issues?

There’s no doubt that the world of work right now is at a cross roads – and the organisations that are proactively adapting are the ones that will succeed first and best.

Den Currie is currently Engagement Director at any-3. This has meant that she has analysed corporate results and behaviour for many large, complex multi-national companies for many years.  Her background in Learning & Capability, Leadership, Engagement and Talent means she has seen many trends, especially in the last year and her passion is to help HR teams recognise the people data they already hold can help them become much more predictive and become the leading division in companies.

Share this article