From pandemic to protests and beyond, 2020 saw a major global reset. Leaders worldwide scrambled to maintain business continuity, keep employees safe, and accelerate digital capability.
The pace, scale and uncertainty of change now is greater than most leaders have ever experienced – Are leaders ready for the new realities? How can they create a healthy and sustainable culture? What can we do as an industry to create systemic change?
Our passion at WBC is to share insights across our sector, to provoke thinking and support businesses to emerge stronger. This paper explores these three questions for Financial Services institutions, sharing highlights from panels we have recently contributed to for FCA, CISI, WIBF.
Are leaders ready for the new realities?
We see ‘Leader Readiness’ as 3 things: intellectual capacity, emotional consciousness and resilience.
Leaders need to stay relevant. The advances in technology, changing nature of our work and how we interact was something futurists have long been discussing. Suddenly, that future is here, right now.
Due to technological acceleration, people are losing 40% of their skills every 3 years – this ratio will only increase, leaders need to strengthen their capacity to continuously learn and adapt.
The problem of this gap in technical skills is compounded by the growing need for social skills at this time. Leaders that historically relied on command and control or micromanaging have had to relinquish control, delegate responsibility, trust their teams and measure people on their output rather than presenteeism.
There are four leadership personas that are vital for the future and as I shared at the FCA panel we have seen leaders recently dial up capabilities around; connectedness, empathy, openness alongside sense making and innovation, throughout the global societal crisis in 2020.
Yet for many they have ‘over exercised’ this new ‘muscle’ and it is starting to fatigue. Indeed, many leaders may also revert back to type, as pressures mount. What’s more, people are tired of navigating through the political, economic, social and emotional uncertainties of the pandemic. Now more than ever, leaders must find the energy to engage their teams and support their employees. But this must start with leaders looking after their own wellbeing – ‘fitting their own oxygen mask before they can help others’ whilst managing competing priorities, tight deadlines and hybrid working.
As Dr Brian Marien shared at the FCA panel – psychological wellbeing has an impact on cognitive function, physical health and behaviour. Understanding human nature in terms of what nourishes and depletes it is an essential skill. As it not only links to quality of life but the bottom line – impacting performance, productivity and profitability.
The only option for leaders is evolution or extinction – continuous development of IQ and EQ is key, but so is AQ (adaptable quotient) to be ready for the new realities and continuous change.
How is your organisation investing in the sustainability of leaders IQ, EQ and AQ? Is this leadership development being provided in real-time to stay ahead? How is your organisation looking after the resilience & wellbeing of your leaders (at all levels)?
How can leaders create a healthy and sustainable culture?
We define a ‘healthy and sustainable’ culture as purpose-led and progressive.
As Jonathan Davidson noted at the FCA Panel, people feel it’s a healthy culture when it is purposeful.
Building, sustaining and evolving the way in which we do work has been a priority in 2020, as leaders place humanity at the forefront of their decision-making.
A culture which is purpose-led and values-based has enabled employees to connect to the meaning of their work and anchored them as they navigate through the political, economic, social and emotional uncertainties.
2020 has required leaders to be self-reflective and challenge the status quo. The current and next generation of talent are attracted towards organisations who bring ESG, Purpose (and in some firms Activism) to the Board table.
We have witnessed the rise of purpose-driven organisations and a shift towards a greater balanced focus of profit and people, with some prioritising sustainability to drive profit. Consumers, investors and employees are demanding significant change, with even the most carbon-heavy companies making net-zero pledges.
Organisations are living organisms, with their own sense of direction, so leaders need to listen. Where some leaders pressed the ‘pause button’ on culture and sustainability initiatives, others have leapfrogged ahead. As sustainability is the ‘new digital’, if companies are moving too slowly, taking an incremental approach to a challenge that demands a radical rethink, they will be left behind.
Do you have a purpose-led culture to connect, inspire and navigate people forward? Are your leaders adopting a “disrupt or be disrupted” mindset to leapfrog your sustainability agenda?
What can we do as an industry to create systemic change?
We believe our industry needs to work together to stimulate change through collective leadership and action.
As Dr Kiran Trehan noted at the FCA panel, we have a moment in time opportunity to think about leadership in very different and informed ways. Effective leadership must be about collectivism, about collaboration and collegiality.
We believe this needs to be both inside and outside your organisation. Transformational change will only be successful if leaders are aligned behind a common purpose and hold each other to account for their role in facilitating the change. As an industry we have inherently been recognised on our individual performance and power – to reinforce change we need to rethink key extrinsic and intrinsic motivators for our leaders, working together as one team.
At WBC we believe there are 5 crucial actions leaders need to take:
- Strengthen resilience to sustain performance, wellbeing and adaptability.
- Listen hard to all voices to connect, understand and bring diversity of thinking to challenges.
- Connect on purpose to guide teams and deliver meaningful social impact.
- Create the narrative to inspire people on the change journey needed to leapfrog forward.
- Collaborate with each other to bring systemic change across your business and industry.
At WBC we help leaders and organisations achieve their potential through these 5 actions and beyond, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
 Transforming Leadership for the 4th Industrial Revolution, WhartonBC 2019
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