As organizations evolve with the times, so do the leadership qualities, skills and capabilities of the people tasked with leading such organizations. In modern organizations, leadership is no longer about hierarchy and flexing muscles but about creating relationships of mutual respect with employees. With flattening organization structures, modern leadership is about team-based direction and embracing collaborative mission-based teams.
The ever-changing workplace, now more than ever, demands that leaders use soft skills in their role. The onset of the coronavirus pandemic brought with it a lot of fear and uncertainty; to weather the storm, modern leaders need to be versatile and able to adapt to a different organizational culture that suits this new and unpredictable era in the world of work. Modern leaders, therefore, need to remain acutely aware of the behaviors and concerns of their team members.
To achieve the most out of their workforce, leaders of modern organizations need to support their teams and ensure there is clear understanding, coupled with a feeling of appreciation and inclusiveness. This workplace environment demands that leaders have the requisite skills and capabilities that are fundamental to leading a modern organization effectively:
1. Communication Skills
To begin with, leaders need to have strong communication skills — to be good business storytellers and to share clear messages by breaking down complex ideas to make them easy for everyone to understand (see Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan and Al Switzler’s book “Crucial Conversations”).
Modern leaders must be active listeners who pay close attention to the concerns of their team. They should enhance dialogue in the workplace and encourage open and transparent communication. Furthermore, leaders should not only have a strong understanding of business strategy but also know how to communicate it to their team. In addition, they should include their teams in decision-making and be able to delegate effectively.
2. Strategic Thinking
In today’s ever-changing work environment, it is imperative that leaders develop advanced strategic thinking skills: the ability to turn information into action and to develop a clear strategy to shape the future of their organization. Modern leaders must develop strong relationships with their colleagues, think across the long term and understand the impact of their decisions in all areas of the organization. They should stay receptive and alert to opportunities, as well as different approaches of thinking and different perspectives on opportunities, challenges and emerging issues.
3. Emotional Intelligence
To be successful, modern leaders must have high emotional intelligence and the ability to build trust and muster the power of connection by valuing the teams they lead (see Travis Bradberry’s book “Emotional Intelligence 2.0”). With emotional intelligence, leaders can connect and engage with their team members and understand and address their needs, concerns and hopes.
Modern leaders must also have the ability to assess individual team members’ strengths and weaknesses and to motivate and inspire them to go the extra mile. Therefore, as Daniel Goleman writes in his book “Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More than IQ,” leaders need empathy, tact, grace, compassion and humility.
Modern leaders should make the well-being, safety and unity of their team members one of their top priorities. In these unprecedented times of crisis and despair, leaders should have the ability to go above and beyond to gain the trust of their employees and make them feel valued.
4. Resilience and Agility
Modern leaders need to be versatile and agile in order to handle the different situations and changes that come at them from all directions (see Max Depree’s book “Leadership Is an Art”). To be effective, modern leaders must be resilient and able to adjust to misfortune or sudden change. After all, as Eric Greitens writes in his book “Resilience: Hard-Won Wisdom for Living a Better Life,” they have to cope with daunting challenges, setbacks, barriers and limited resources in order to make their organizations thrive. Modern leaders, as William B. Joiner and Stephen A. Josephs write in “Leadership Agility,” must also be able to maintain firm and effective control of any given situation, while nurturing innovative and fresh perspectives to solve problems.
5. Vision and Purpose
Modern leaders need a compelling vision and the ability to communicate it to their team and translate it into reality. To do so, according to Simon Sinek, David Mead and Peter Docker’s book “Find Your Why,” they must identify their own passion and purpose and strive to operate from it and connect it to the organization. This alignment will lead to strengthened feelings of self-worth, which leads to self-confidence, self-fulfillment, employee engagement and high performance.
6. Innovation and Creativity
Great leaders are drivers of change who encourage creativity and innovation in the workplace. The coronavirus pandemic has caused the workplace to go through massive and unprecedented disruption. Due to this difficult time, not to mention the onset of the digital era, modern leaders need to implement innovative strategies focused on digital transformation and the use of technology to enable remote work — and prepare their team to adapt accordingly.
As Tony Davila, Marc Epstein and Robert Shelton write in their book “Making Innovation Work,” modern leaders should empower their team with the tools and skills to do their jobs well — no matter where they log in — so that they can function as effectively as they did before disruption.
The Role of Learning and Development
Being an effective leader in a modern organization requires a high level of competence, and coaching and training future leaders is a great way to empower the workforce. With flattened structures, modern organizations need to build their leadership pipeline. Workplace leadership development programs bridge the gap between natural leadership traits and the specific needs of the organization. They can also boost employees’ confidence and trust in the organization, as they fill in knowledge gaps and upskill learners based on their strengths.
A lack of effective training for emerging leaders can have a negative impact on the organization’s progress. To effectively develop employees’ leadership skills, organizations must adopt a continuous learning approach that gives learners access to important learning resources to improve their leadership skills and capabilities.
Editor’s note: Don’t miss our infographic on modern leadership development, which shares insights from learning leaders like this one.