Former US President John F Kennedy had noted in a speech delivered in Dallas, Texas, in 1963 that “leadership and learning are indispensable to each other”. Companies and organizations succeed because they have good leaders who nurture learning and leadership at all levels within the organization. It is often assumed that great leaders are born rather than taught, but it is equally true that leadership is a skill that can be learnt.

Leadership is tested at all times but never more so than during a crisis. The ongoing Covid pandemic has tested the resilience and business continuity of many organizations. The fundamental test for an effective leader is not whether he or she makes smart decisions and takes decisive action, but whether he or she nurtures the next rung of leaders and build an organization that can sustain success even when he or she is not around.

People first in the Covid-hit world

The Covid pandemic with its ensuing and widespread lockdowns has forced urgent and critical changes in how business is conducted. During the various stages of lockdown, organizations have become decentralised as teams as employees are working remotely from home. Most companies are having to deal with actions that will decrease costs, meet the lockdown stipulations as well as activate contingency plans so that they can continue being in business. Needless to say that if ever there was a time for leaders to nurture themselves and others, it is now.

All good leaders share some fundamental traits. They take responsibility for fostering other leaders, they embody their points of view and have well-defined methodologies and teaching methods. They care enough about the future and have confidence in their vision.

Due to Covid, fostering leadership has become the new norm as organizations realize that to steer through the crisis, they will need to prioritize people. Using a one-size-fits-all approach to achieving short-term goals and attaining profit targets will no longer work. In these Covid times, the only measure of an employee’s productivity is the result and the impact this has on the business.

Frequent communication spiced with trust, care and empathy

Henry Ford’s famous quote goes like this – “if there is any great secret of success in life, it lies in the ability to put oneself in another person’s place and to see things from his or her point of view – as well as from one’s own”. one of the foremost attributes of a good leader is his/her ability to inspire a happy and engaged team and leading with trust, care and empathy.

Developing interpersonal skills that come with compassion and empathy can create an environment that promotes cooperation and collaboration, and are key to effective leadership and goes a long way in maintaining esprit de corps and continuity of high performance. It is, therefore, critical for the organizations to focus on programmes to help develop skills in empathy and emotional intelligence.

Consistent mentoring

Future leaders are not made overnight; they need guidance and someone who can push their limits and guide them in a crisis. To coach employees to be leaders from the very outset, it is important to encourage every member of the team to think like a leader, no matter what job title he/she carries. If you wait to coach someone on leadership until he/she eventually occupies a managerial position, you’ll be too late.

Taking initiative is crucial to leading. Reward employees who come to you with solutions for problems, who step up when a project needs to be done and who seek out opportunities for professional growth.

Technology, Trust and Transparency

Since last year, working remotely has changed the way organizations function. In all likelihood, this will be the trend and the new normal in the short and medium term as we will continue to work remotely. Though employees have got used to this new work culture, there is still a lot that needs to be done in terms of permanently adapting it without damaging organizational standards. Only technology and its appropriate use can bridge the gap.

Technology is best when it brings people together. Working remotely and managing employee productivity is a huge task for organizations to reach goals while keeping the employees connected to the work environment. Adapting to new technology and digitization can be challenging for employees, who have to stay focused while working remotely. Employees may feel physically as well as emotionally disconnected while working and a few standards might be necessary to keep both the employees as well as the work on track.

The need of the hour is to integrate technology in a way that strengthens the workplace culture and embeds trust and transparency. Since the hybrid workplace is the way forward, a wide range of approaches will be taken into action, where teamwork would be an essential part of an organization’s activities. By inspiring employees and encouraging their growth, companies can future-proof their business and create leaders of the future. Developing and supporting talent offers massive returns on both time and financial investments.

While there is no straight forward recipe to foster leadership, the secret lies in learning, unlearning and relearning.

The author, Kamaljeet Kaur, is CHRO at Sterlite Power.

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