03 May 2021
One characteristic which can support leaders and guide their way in the new “VUCA” world (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) we are all living in, is flexibility. Against “common sense” that the leader must be strong, firm, confident, to know everything and always be capable of the right decisions, flexible leaders know that they know nothing (since whatever they may know today, the same thing tomorrow will be much less worthy – if of any worth at all), leave in resonance with modern era (mostly “through” their partners since it is just not possible for any single human being alone to follow all developments in any given field) and, last but not least, decide... by letting others decide!
In order to become flexible, leaders need to establish a new mindset: abandon the prevailing model of “always been right” and approach leadership as a “personal quality” which can be developed – and develop it! In other words, leader needs to approach leadership and its challenges not in a fixed but in a growth mindset.
One of growth mindset’s central elements is the belief that leadership can be developed. Leadership is not something we either possess it or not, something that we are born with or lose forever. On the contrary, we can all be great leaders, provided that we try in the right way! Following this new approach, the leader no longer perceives failure as disapproval or a sign for her inability to exercise leadership. Failure becomes a valuable lesson, a priceless experience since it can teach the leader, with very tangible examples, what to keep doing and what to avoid in the future. Subsequently, leaders’ objectives change as well: the goal now is not how to avoid failure but how to grow and become a better leader. The leader now seeks challenging experiences which will help her grow – without the concept of failure even entering the picture. Lastly, “trying hard” is not a “bad thing” anymore: a good leader is not necessarily one who feels comfortable leading or one to whom leading comes “naturally”. Leadership is not a talent accessible by a few “blessed ones”. On the contrary, effort and hard work become now badges of honor which leader proudly caries because they prove that she cares: she is genuinely interested and trying her best to become the best leader she can be, for herself, the others and the society.
This year’s Best Workplaces list offers great examples of flexible leaders with a growth mindset who not only didn’t panic on the face of COVID-19 but, on the contrary, they used it creatively in order to empower their organizations, improve their operation, and redefine their goals, in order to be capable of approaching the post-pandemic future with more optimism, ready to take advantage of every opportunity this will bring to them.
Starting from the basics, Best Workplaces leaders tried to provide a new context to their partners, which would help them approach and interpret creatively the new situation, without commitments and shortsighted certitudes: strategic plans and business targets changed overnight. Of course, they set as a non-negotiable priority the health and safety of their partners. Next on their agendas was trust: they urged their employees to work from home over and above governmental guidelines, without supervision and control of working time, with trust for the outcome, because leaders know that employees, in this challenging situation, do their best for their company — because this was something they wanted to do and not because it was something imposed on them. They acknowledged and satisfied their partners’ increased needs: we met a wide range of policies from programs of psychological support to info sessions on COVID-19 to suggestions for recreational activities for the children of employees working from home. Leaders also promoted a sense of continuity and “new normality”: meetings were transformed from “physical” to “electronic” and continued with the same schedule, frequency and participants as before. They didn’t forget to have fun: birthdays were celebrated online and photo contests were organized in electronic apps. They cared: leaders reminded their people of the increased risk of burnout due to teleworking, they “imposed” lunch breaks (with family members or coworkers) or a communication ban in the afternoon, and simply asked employees if they needed a leave or time-off. And of course, they accepted the cost: not only did they commit that no employee would be laid off during the crisis, not only did they avoid salary reductions or benefit cuts but, in several cases, they remained committed to pro-pandemic bonuses and pays despite the fact that, due to the new situation, targets seemed unattainable.
Without any doubt, Best Workplaces 2021 leaders are true role leadership models for the new business age.