What does the new Leader look like in the Hybrid World?

By Sue Withers

The hybrid workplace is here to stay and will continue to evolve. So, can our current Leadership styles continue and be successful in the years ahead?

It seems to me that certain competencies are going to be key. Leaders will need to be adaptable, open to change, experimental, fast-paced, and of course results driven. As little as 2 years ago, as a general rule, our employees were physically in the office and as a Leader it was and still is important to ensure the environment is a pleasant one. In additional, we had to be cognicent of social and cultural dimensions. This is still of course important for those employees still in the office, but when they are now working remotely, we have to also be very aware and diligent of processes and operations. It is imperative that those working remotely feel included, as well as having the necessary tools to do their job – they need to feel a part of the team.

It is now becoming important to promote trust, empathy, fairness and inclusion. To aid this, weekly group calls, ‘get togethers’ are essential to ensure that all team members – in the office or working remotely – trust each other and feel a cohesive part of the team. The remote workers no longer have the opportunity to chat over lunch or as they pass in the office.

The Leaders of today must ensure their team is engaged and pro-actively solicit input, questions and feedback. By doing this, Leaders make sure everyone is called upon and brought into opportunities. Leaders need to be aware of the team’s preferences, but at the same time are tasked with achieving goals and productivity.

So what must the new Leader do?

According to the Harvard Business School, 2020 and 2021 may well not be just an anomaly. Accelerating change surrounds us; technology, automation, A.I, human interconnectivity.

Our historical models for good Leaders didn’t include this type of fast paced change. Change around us is perpetual, pervasive and exponential.

Successful Leaders seem to now fall into the category of those who embrace change, adaptability, are wise, sagacious and inspiring the necessary trust that drives learning, resulting in enhanced results and collective performance. The name for this new type of Leader, according to the Harvard Business School is the Sapient Leader.

After research by the HBS with a variety of Leadership Luminaries, the pillars of the Sapient Leader fall into 4 pillars. The first pillar includes leader humility, authenticity, and openness to instill trust. The idea of ‘I know it all’ is now defunct. Leaders need to evolve and be willing to change and show flexibility to what the team and organisations require.

Trust and psychological safety make up the 2nd pillar. Psychological Safety is when team members feel safe to be vulnerable in front of one another and of course, trust is a vital component to this.

The 3rd pillar of the Sapient Leader is to promote continual learning. In a world where change is paramount, Sapient Leaders, their teams and organisations must continually learn, deploy new tools, course-correct based on new knowledge. As Sapient Leaders, we must enhance the pace of learning to keep up with the velocity of change.

And finally, the 4th pillar of the Sapient Leader is having a shared purpose and values which enhances cohesion and resilience during fast-paced change. A shared purpose is a powerful way to unite large numbers of people to solve a complex problem.

Navigating perpetual, pervasive, and exponential change is the new ‘normal’ and amplifies the pressure on Leaders today, to adapt faster or become irrelevant. Many of the pillars underpinning the Sapient Leader would be true of historical Leaders, but there are big shifts as well. 

As with all changes, opportunities abound and new ways of doing things. Working in a hybrid setting has been of huge benefit to many employees (and some employers), so Leaders just need to adapt and find a new way to manage.

As Ancel Chima, an academic journalist succinctly put it; ‘For successful Sapient Leaders and Organisations, change will change itself’.

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