The pandemic shook company culture, values and purpose to the root. Markets and consumer behavior shifted. And the way business was conducted globally, was transformed.
Which means the ultimate guardians of the brand - senior leaders - had to also.
Of course, fundamental leadership qualities, such as commitment, determination and brain power, must remain - but these are fast becoming hygiene factors as the newly refined set of traits, skills and characteristics emerge.
"Change before you have to."
- Jack Welch
Out with the old SWOT and in with the new
The traditional SWOT test for brands (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) is being challenged by new considerations born from necessity as we simultaneously make our way back to web3.0 and workplace3.0
Leaders need to adjust how they manage themselves, their team, their clients and their rivals against:
Skills - do you have what it takes to flourish today in a more digitized and personalized world? And if not, which skills do you need to acquire or improve?
Workplace - do you understand the assignment and have control of the new hybrid environment?
Operations - are you aware of and implementing all the new procedures needed in the new, post-pandemic landscape?
Tech - how savvy are you and are you deploying the right solutions to enable your phase and stage of business?
Post-COVID-19 leaders need to embrace the hybrid workplace integrating staff and priorities across in-person and remote locations. Managing this requires mental dexterity and adjustments to traditional personnel management skills as tech continues to deliver new and interesting ways to unite and capture the work of teams spread across different geographies and timezones.
The expectations from staff around managing more holistic health and happiness have risen. While this is a happy outcome from the pandemic, it must be echoed in the manager’s ability to facilitate it, while managing their own.
The big work and life rethink deems success not only to be calculated in terms of paycheck but in overall fulfillment. Aligning personal and business values and purpose has become paramount and the point aptly made via the Big Quit of 2021, when 4 million Americans quit their jobs in July 2021 with another 4.3 million leaving their jobs voluntarily in August.
To keep their top talent, leaders need to be aware of all of this, and that’s only the internal peak at the org chart.
Externally, they also need to rewrite the playbook to recognize the new opportunities presented by the ever-changing marketplace. From exploring new promotional methods, to partnering with innovative partners to collectively growing the brand.
The Big Four
1. Being intuitive – lift your people game
It’s counter-intuitive to think intuition can be taught, but there are skills and tactics that can be used to understand people, personalities and characters. With any number of personality tests to identify ‘types’ like Gordon Allport's list of 4,000 personality traits, Raymond Cattell's 16 personality factors, Hans Eysenck's three-factor theory, or studies like this one from 2018. The more interesting conundrum is - how do great leaders put that knowledge to use?
Winning leaders in the post-pandemic world need to be able to build strong teams. Environments that are inclusive, connected and coherent - able to operate across hybrid environments and that unleash the considerable talents of the collective group.
Additionally, employee welfare today is paramount with mental health and wellbeing taking top billing, as a result of the times. Regular communication as well as measuring staff happiness is becoming the norm and any issues are expected to be addressed early.
2. Cultural sensitivity, empathy and EQ – nurture your brand and love on your customers
It’s not just the relationship between brands and their employees that has shifted in the past two years. The way brands now engage and interact with – and market and sell to – their customers has also changed forever.
We are all being called to be more conscious and to put our purchasing power and influence towards what is right. Social media has exacerbated issues, brands are expected to be politically aware and the risks are real if products or services are deemed non inclusive or tone-deaf. An insensitive marketing campaign can destroy a brand.
The flipside is upside. Brands that represent the issues of their customers and solve for them – especially around environmental sustainability, gender, race, disabilities and body image – can thrive. Leaders need to recognize this and make their decisions with empathy, emotional intelligence (EQ) and cultural sensitivity - front of mind.
3. Flexibility and agility – don’t get stuck in your rut
My way or the highway is so ‘last Millenia’. To be strong in leadership but not set in your ways is the new recipe to success. With markets, technology and the competitive landscape all evolving at pace, being customer-centric, data-lead and driven by ‘the best idea wins’ is the new currency for progress.
A great leader will:
Question where they may be wrong.
Ask: why not?
Be bold and A/B test lots of things.
Request broad contribution and then provide a clear way forward.
4. Relentless learning – be a thought leader for your brand
Change is happening faster today so leaders need to sit high on the wave and maintain a healthy outlook on what is coming next as well as the watchouts. Being constantly curious and involving trends, case studies and cross-generational discussions is key to keeping up. The future can often sit in other sectors that are further along their timeline, so hold them in your sights.
Leaders who micromanage have entirely missed the point. The point being: hire great people - people better than you for the job required - and then get out of the way to let the magic happen.
Need more magic?