The coronavirus is continuing to profoundly re-shape the economic, organisational and societal landscape. But also the way how we lead and direct organizations has changed drastically. Italian management was mostly determined by hierarchy, control, rather top-down mentality than equal start-up atmosphere.
The disorientation that followed the onset of the pandemic acted as a strong stimulus for change in terms of organisational learning. In this sense, the pandemic acted as a “disorientating dilemma”, an event so powerful and unexpected that it forced management to quit traditional comfort zones to explore new areas of action. This is a time of disorientation, but also one of potential collective learning.
One buzzword changed it all. Leadership Empathy. Management has introduced more empathetic forms of leadership in many organisations. This has led to more active listening, enhancing the experiences of employees in comparison with previous forms of leadership that were mainly concentrated on operations. Management support also turned to emotional containment of the fears of many employees worried about their future prospects. So the first response of top and middle management to the disorientation was to activate "solidarity support" practices. The sense of disorientation was particularly felt at the beginning of the pandemic, before homeworking measures were clarified.
Decision-making and sharing, problem solving, flexibility, accountability, emotional skills (in particular empathy) and resilience have emerged to be the top leadership skills triggered by the pandemic. It has pushed companies to question themselves and step up actions to promote employee wellbeing not only in a physical, but in a holistic/psychological sense.
What does that mean for the future? For us as Executive Search experts as well as the whole economy it will be important to identify new KPIs that recognize more intangible leadership behaviours (e.g. inclusiveness) and to better define KPIs to evaluate the achievement of individual objectives in, for example, the "smart working" arena.
This would also mean the encouraging and valuing of bottom-up co-creation leads to an improved sense of belonging. This virtuous circle is inscribed in the fact that accentuating a sense of belonging strengthens people’s self-confidence and their commitment towards their organisational community. The more top management is able to integrate these behaviours into consolidated recognition and reward practices, the more these behaviours are destined to be crystallized and transformed into a new corporate culture. After the pandemic and beyond.