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What is certain in the current climate of uncertainty is that the next decade will be based on a new way of mobilizing and developing teams.
What we have been experiencing worldwide is strengthening and accelerating a major trend that began a few years ago: the need for leaders who show more human warmth, empathy, and courage. Gone are the dictators, the Napoleons, the Machiavellians, and the spineless. I know you’ve heard this song before and it’s been talked about for a long time, but this time the pandemic and its aftermath will drive the final nail into the coffin of “fake leadership”.
The CEO of the next decade will have to balance their management style between the pursuit of profit and the well-being not only of their employees but also the ecosystem. And they will have to exercise it with empathy.
In December 2020, the results of a survey of 4,000 employees and business leaders in 11 countries, conducted by the Workforce Institute, found that 65% of Canadian employees say that trust has a direct impact on their sense of belonging to the company (compared to 68% in the United States). Perceived low confidence at work lowers productivity and affects career choices. This correlates directly with employee retention and attraction factors, and in this regard, the study shows that one in five employees (22%) did not actively recommend a friend, family member, or former colleague for an open position because they did not trust their company and its leadership. Even more striking, just over half of all employees surveyed worldwide (55%) believe that a lack of trust affects their mental health.
Mental health and burnout have never been more talked about, regardless of whether you work remotely or at the office. Overall, three in five (59%) employees and business leaders say their organization has taken at least some steps to guard against burnout, but nearly a third (29%) of employees wish their organizations would be more empathetic.
We live in a paradox. Employees have never needed human connection more, yet we are increasingly living in a digital world where virtual has taken the place of face-to-face interaction.
What if processes, technology, and robotization tend to dehumanize our relationships? This is certainly a dilemma and potential recipe for disaster.
The leader of the next decade will have to let their true colours be revealed and show vulnerability to build trust. One can be a strong leader while accepting weaknesses with humility and recognizing that they need their employees. The art is in the way you communicate. Without forcing the message, and without being condescending.
In the virtual world, touch is impossible; what remains is the smile, the look, the choice of words, and the “virtual warmth”. Today we are used to hearing dogs bark, seeing a cat jump on the keyboard, a little one inviting themselves to a Zoom call, and we can laugh about it. In the future, the “human” leader will be able to invite their employees to “pajamas Team’s meetings” and launch a contest for the best virtual wallpaper, as well as respect the working schedule of those with young children. Respect, empathy, and humility will be front and centre of our new reality over the next few years. I recommend the excellent guide published by PwC, “Basic principles of telecommuting“, which offers sound advice on how to position one’s leadership in a virtual world with both employees and clients.
Relax, breathe and, above all, trust your teams as much as yourself and listen to your intuition. Your inner voice is right when it whispers to you not to worry too much about the old protocols.