In a time when hybrid working has become the norm, there is a greater need for employees to polish their soft skills. One of the most essential soft skills – often referred to as a power skill – is leadership.
This doesn’t only pertain to the top brass. Junior managers need to improve personal decision-making and build their leadership capabilities. Middle management needs to empower themselves to align effective leadership with organisational goals. Senior leaders need to implement strategic business decisions with maximum staff buy-in while driving diversity and inclusion.
What tricks and tips can you learn to take traditional leadership practices in a more progressive direction? Let’s first look at how your old leadership habits impact the workplace.
The downsides of traditional leadership
McKinsey & Company shows us that one of the chief causes of “The Great Resignation” is old-fashioned leadership practices. Here are some examples:
- Uninspiring and uncaring leaders
- Lack of flexibility
- Unsustainable work expectations
- Lack of meaning
- Lack of support
Sound familiar? Important to note is fixing these negatives doesn’t mean changing your company’s vision and mission, but it does mean taking a multi-pronged approach to bring people back into the fold and increase retention. Here are some top leadership skills needed to accelerate your impact as a leader.
Top leadership trends for 2023
1. Be less hierarchical and more collaborative
Hierarchical and rigid management styles, where every person’s role is cast in stone, are the enemy of an agile workforce. In times of disruption, leaders need to be able to dissolve teams quickly, easily, and effectively with minimal demands on leadership resources and time.
Employees’ sense of responsibility immediately increases when organisational structures are flattened and replaced by collaborative and cross-functional environments. Along with that comes improved communication and boosted employee morale, which enables businesses to make changes and decisions faster.
2. Develop young leaders
Because everything is moving more quickly, you need to ensure your people can think strategically by themselves. By learning the secrets of positive self-talk, self-awareness and personal mastery, you empower your employees to develop themselves personally and be more willing to take on responsibilities.
This “leading from behind” strategy empowers people to act like leaders who feel confident enough to alert you to roadblocks in their fields and suggest ways to change course. Through creating individual leaders, businesses foster a productive, open environment in which everyone can contribute and be heard, regardless of seniority.
3. Build your team’s soft skills
Leadership in itself is a soft (power) skill, but it relies on a number of other soft skills to be effective. For example, the ability to connect at a human level and create meaningful relationships is a key focus regardless of your role within the company.
When bringing on new talent or promoting existing talent, leaders will be looking for self-aware, emotionally astute team players who can handle stress well and lead by example. Strategic leadership that can influence others and develop followership – while still collaborating well cross-functionally – will be a priority as the world of work shifts and evolves.
4. Lead with kindness
Empathy is an essential leadership quality, and if it doesn’t come naturally, it can be hard to cultivate on your own (but we can help with that). The 2021 EY Empathy in Business Survey found that many 54% of employees had left a job because their boss wasn’t empathetic to their struggles at work (54%) or in their personal lives (49%).
Why be kind? Well, 89% of employees said that empathy leads to better leadership and inspires positive change in the workplace. The research also found that almost 85% said empathetic leadership increases employee productivity. Active listening, taking an interest in others’ ambitions and struggles, being supportive of them professionally, and encouraging the quiet ones is all part of being an empathetic leader.
5. Really embrace diversity and inclusion
Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) as a concept is bantered around a lot, yet implementation remains out of reach for many businesses. It’s one of a leader’s biggest responsibilities, though – not only from a socio-economic point of view and for that all-important B-BEE scorecard, but for its ability to create psychological safety, unconditional collaboration, trust, and transparency in the new hybrid workplace. Considering that the future employee will collaborate with colleagues from around the country and the world, embracing and valuing differences in thinking and approaches is how businesses build strength and resilience.
Effective training, ongoing discussions, and engagement at all levels on what D&I is and how leaders can genuinely practice and promote diverse, equitable and inclusive workplace cultures will continue to be a priority for all South African businesses.
Accelerate your impact as a leader
Leadership has never been easy, and looking at the forecast for 2023, it’s clear leaders need to do more in more complex circumstances. Expectations are higher than ever, and without support and guidance, they’ll continue to struggle and haemorrhage workers.
MasterStart specialises in helping leaders and businesses develop the capacity to grow and meet these demands through our forward-thinking and supportive approach to leadership development.
Contact us today to explore our various courses geared towards creating future-proof leaders at all levels of your business.