Seeking New Normalcy: Leadership

As discussed in our previous article, much of our recent dialogue with leaders has been about basic questions about socioeconomic shifts that are shaping a transforming new normal in the post-COVID19 world. Answers to these questions define alternative and coinciding scenarios for customer demand,  competitive landscapes, and work dynamics within each, if not all, of the sectors of the economy. Having reviewed major insights from our respondents on the expected shifts to individual behaviors earlier this week, this article summarizes insights from answers to the second question:

In what ways will leaders continue to approach their businesses and employees differently even as we recover from the crisis?

Some respondents were very skeptical that all leaders will actually make long-term transformational shifts in their approach to leadership as we recover from the health and economic crisis. But there was  consensus about some overarching transformational themes that are here to stay beyond the COVID19 crisis.

  • Embracing remote working and virtual teams, and re-imagining the workplace. Remote working has enabled business continuity while adhering to social distancing measures. There is an expectation that leaders will now trust remote working more even beyond the crisis. Mandating physical presence as a condition for employment could become extremely challenging, especially for “at risk” employees, required to stay home if they have health concerns.  Also, ongoing experiences with remote working have already demonstrated the associated benefits of cost savings and access to more diversified pools of resources for building more effective virtual teams. As a result, companies could find themselves having to rethink the workspace to avoid physical proximity, allow telecommuting, leverage virtual teams, and achieve cost savings.
  • Empathy, balancing employee well-being with shareholder value. Leaders are expected to become more empathetic, and shift their emphasis from shareholder value to overall enterprise value enhancement. This will take additional attention to employee financial, emotional, and physical well-being. Even if some leaders don’t choose to be more empathetic, the COVID19 health crisis has made the direct connection between employee well-being and business performance clearer to employers. Employees would now be approached much more holistically as human beings and family members with priorities and demands that affect their contribution.  This could call for evaluating the need to upgrade their health insurance plans, mental health programs, flexible work policies, and compensation schemes. On the flip side, economic pressures are expected to motivate the reassessment and reduction of hiring and overall human resource needs.
  • E-commerce driven recovery and growth. Business leaders predict growth in established as well as emerging e-commerce markets with remote working and social distancing becoming the norm. Many businesses in the online retail and tech sectors have already seen significant growth in 2020. Leaders across sectors are upping their game, where possible, to identify and realize commercial opportunities for their businesses in a socially distanced, increasingly virtual world. Financial recovery and growth is projected to be driven by a continuous shift to e-commerce or products and services that support virtual work and communication and other social distancing measures.

Raising questions about how overall public and private sector leadership priorities and approaches could be transforming is critical for success in the new normal. These changes drive shifts in the competitive landscape, customer demand, and/or policy dynamics for most businesses. As leaders re-envision the future and redirect their organizations accordingly, it would be useful to consider societal values that will prevail in the new normal. The next article in our “Seeking New Normalcy” series will address the question of values.

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