The past year (and, perhaps, a half) has been a great learning opportunity for us. The COVID-19 situation has changed a lot of our working habits and the entire concept of onsite work has transitioned to remote across most of the universe.
This has also led to more opportunities and new ways of living; however, it’s not necessarily permanent either—meaning that people have bounced between back and forth, between lockdowns and going to work, between remote and onsite.
This has changed the perception and expectations in any form of long-term planning for the vast majority of people, especially those with kids, and having to worry about travel or kindergarten through school attending or homeschooling, it gets even scarier.
Consequently, new needs in terms of traits for the leadership team arise.
The New Ways of Working
The great resignation which started in April of this year has impacted most of the world. The tenure rates have decreased dramatically, and retaining people has become even harder than it used to be before.
The people who stay get a lot more opportunities to scale up in the organization, gain new skills, be promoted, and become critical parts of the further development of the company.
However, not all of them are patient enough to stay on board.
And in order for companies to stay afloat and lose as few people as possible, leaders have to develop certain skills throughout 2022. Let us go over each of these skills.
If you have been running a business that has been on autopilot more or less, you have definitely had a lot of tough times over the past year and a half and that’s completely normal. That level of uncertainty in different spaces, that level of losing key talent, losing customers, potentially having shipping problems if you’re into the offline shipping space, there are tons of different question marks for business, and this is something that’s not going to end soon.
Even when things go back to work, people would have different expectations, people would have to get back to the normalized state of work, people would have to get adapted to the new process of work, meaning that resilience is an important skill in 2022.
You have to be ready to spend the next year, maybe two, adapting and reverting back to the old ways of work while people forget the current processes of lack of expectations or lack of predictability, or lack of prioritization.
Knowing that your staff is going through so much just as you are means that you have to be stronger than ever.
Leaders are not only expected to be great communicators, but also empathetic ones. According to the Management Research Group, empathy is now the leading positive competency in leadership. In fact, it is also one of the main predictors of effectiveness among senior executives. To put it simply, leaders must always show they care.
You have to pay a lot more attention to what people are going through, be more understanding, and be more empathetic. Working on your empathy skills is integral to developing a better bond with your top talent and making sure they stay afloat.
You have already noticed that being flexible is one of the key traits ever since the recession started.
Having to go from onsite to remote, reduce shipping fees, work out ways to work with different customers or downscale because of different customers, think of new office spaces, or having to not think of travel because of many reasons, agility is something that is necessary for business, but even strong established businesses had to become more agile throughout the past two years in order to stay afloat.
Here is an insightful graphic from The Predictive Index that depicts what being an agile leader entails:
Accordingly, there are five key drivers of agile leadership and these are Integrity, Innovation, Urgency, Engagement, and Direction.
Of these five, your integrity as a leader serves as the foundation. You inspire your people to do better when you lead a principled path that is rooted in self-awareness and willingness to take accountability. Juggling several responsibilities become easier when you act upon the best interests of your team.
Working on your agility skills, developing them even further so that it becomes natural to inspire and use such skills when leading people, is something that will empower you throughout the coming year.
In many of those situations, your long-term planning has been broken down into pieces. And what if a problem planned for a year or two ahead of time is no longer valid?
Well, maybe even your next six-month plan is no longer valid as we have seen in different companies that planned to go back to the office in July and in September, in December, in January, in February, in April, or just going through the entire cycle.
This level of refining your expectations is something that requires you to pivot and requires you to be able to work to utilize your team in the best possible manner and pivot into new industries, types of products or services, or other ways to utilize your team or just survive.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce suggests the following four ways to pivot your business model under the new normal:
- Pivoting to a new audience/target market
- Pivoting services and products
- Pivoting to online sales
- Pivoting to working remotely
An article on Harvard Business School’s Working Knowledge just points out one critical step before you pivot and that is: Protect.
Protect the core business by aiming for improvement and not exponential growth.
If you were used to developing complete products from the get-go, you probably don’t have the time to do so nowadays, so you need to become better at prototyping.
You need to become better in working towards prototypes into minimum viable products, beta versions, some components, plans, and structures that are easy to execute and start with and then build upon because you don’t necessarily have all the time to build a fully-fledged final version of whatever you aim for.
It may work or it may not, but in the meantime, people working on that project, product, tool, or service may no longer be around or you may be short-staffed and have to allocate people on different resources so you just don’t have the time.
So working with condensed timeframes, or fewer months to plan forward means you need to become better at prototyping.
Besides, taking too much time because you aim for something close to perfection is no longer a viable choice these days when user behavior has become extremely unpredictable and dynamic. You are bound to fail if you restrict your approach this way.
Go for innovation leadership with prototyping. Yes, you have ideas about what your users want but you are also open to any changes that could happen at any point of the production process. The key here is to never stop innovating and adapting.
Having your company so agile and having to pivot and prototype so much means that you need to change the narrative. You need to change the marketing strategy, PR, your brand message, the way you recruit talent, and the way you deal with clients.
Incorporating storytelling is changing their entire perspective of a company which can result in the change of the entire messaging several times throughout the year.
So you have to become great at storytelling and make sure you pass your story through the prism of what is happening in the space then use and leverage those facts in the best possible way to attract the type of people who are going to resonate with your story.
In other words, acquiring storytelling skills means gaining focus on the human side of your work. Focusing on the human side of your business veers away from the plain and sometimes too technical stuff. Because just as I said earlier, good stories engage better. They also stick longer in your audience’s mind.
Having to project different scenarios and having to project different ways for the future means you need to forecast a lot more than usual.
Normally, lots of boards do a five-year forecast, an annual forecast, and then kind of break it down and reverse engineer. But having so many changes nowadays means that more people are leaving your organization, it costs more to hire new people.
If you work with more recruitment firms, it’s getting harder to find new clients or in certain businesses, it’s easier to find new clients meaning that your costs are also going up, but your fees are going up as well. So this means that forecasting becomes your second nature and you need to become great at forecasting quickly and creating different variants of how to make things better.
To become better at forecasting, you need to have sufficient business understanding and the right technical knowledge.
This is an important leadership skill to develop because it targets your foresight and provides you with the necessary guidance for decision-making even when the data at hand could become uncertain.
When you have foresight, you can examine your choices better and go for a path with solid insights. While it is impossible to know exactly what the future holds, the steps you can take towards it are well-guided.
8. Risk Management
Risk management is another integral bit. You must always be ready ahead of time for whatever may come next. This means being capable of working with twice as much workload or twice as few people and being able to work at half the capacity or half the client base.
This entails being able to downscale the office, move to a broader space, transition to remote, get people back to the office, be ready for some of those people to leave, and lots of other different plans.
I have written about risk management techniques that you can employ as a leader or manager.
These techniques are great at handling unexpected events and reducing financial loss among other issues that may arise.
So, having risk management as another hat that you can wear comfortably would be extremely integral to becoming a great leader in 2022.
As a result, this is not a fully-fledged complete set of skills, but these are some of the most important traits that many leaders in my circles, in my network, are struggling with or are pushing to enforce and develop throughout the coming year.
Spending more time on them and developing a self-learning or self-development plan, or attending masterminds or industry events where you can refine and improve your skills is only going to be beneficial throughout the next year.
What are the most important skills that you deem important in 2022? Let me know in the comments below.