New normal of pandemic has changed the role of media leaders

By Amit Das

Bennett Coleman & Co. Ltd. (The Times Group)

Mumbai, India


The pandemic has disrupted almost all aspects of the business world, and it’s time for us to explore how it has triggered the emergence of neo-leadership. I strongly believe that the recent COVID-19 crisis helped us rediscover our agility, which emerged as our unique strength for any such black swan event in future.

It’s encouraging to see how everyone adapted to the new normal and worked seamlessly despite all the challenges. Empathy, gratitude, collaboration, and shared success are some of the key learnings everyone will agree to. But I also believe this crisis has taught us the need to challenge our beliefs and assumptions about how we can change, what we can change, and what we can adapt in our lives.

Employees have been through intense hardship in recent years, and leadership needs to recognise, acknowledge, and reflect this.
Employees have been through intense hardship in recent years, and leadership needs to recognise, acknowledge, and reflect this.

Future leadership competencies will remained tied to connected leadership, cognitive flexibility, digital dexterity, frugal mindset, pragmatic orientation, resilience, and empathy. Agility, adaptability and strategic thinking prowess were always expected as key attributes from great leadership, but the pandemic also brought in the aspect of embedded ethos and empathy, along with a lot of other humane factors.

Leaders were always challenged to do more with less and innovate while managing cost. But now the expectation from them is unique. Leaders are expected to demonstrate compassion and employee centricity, since workforce across the world has experienced challenges to manage business continuity, but also a lot of stress in their personal and professional lives.

Future leaders need to:

  • Connect the hearts and minds of their employees with the organisational purpose.
  • Introduce a sense of urgency and responsiveness.
  • Create a guided coalition.
  • Develop a shared vision and sense of purpose.
  • Communicate the strategy.
  • Empower people to act.
  • Generate short-term wins.
  • Consolidate gains.
  • Institutionalise the new approach.

It is imperative today that leaders ensure the ongoing building and sustenance of trust among team members, as well as build a culture of cooperation and collaboration across businesses. Focusing on programmes and workshops while promoting networking and partnership is what is going to help the leadership team in the volatile market and unpredictable business scenario.

According to a Harvard Business Review (HBR) article The Best Leaders are Versatile Ones, the biggest challenges business leaders will face is the need to balance competing demands while keeping up with a seemingly faster pace of change. There are clear trends in what leadership skills are considered necessary for a future-ready leadership.

In compassionate and caring organisations, leaders need to continue focusing on creating an impact at the workplace, especially when it comes to the well-being of employees and their families. They have to create programmes in the workplace that enhance the wellness quotient in the organisation. Purpose and meaning will become extremely important going forward.

While it was always important for employees to embrace a purpose-driven mindset as they go about their work, leaders must now consciously provide a platform to connect employees to their “individual” purposes.

Accountability, building high-performing virtual teams in times of ambiguity, and the new short-term focus requires leaders to make quick decisions while keeping their empathy hat on. With the impact of the pandemic on general well-being and mental health, it will be up to leaders to manage increased anxiety and emotional exhaustion.

According to Catalyst, when people reported their leaders were empathetic, they were more likely to report they were able to be innovative. They were also more likely to be engaged, were less likely to think about leaving the company, and believed their workplace was more inclusive.

Organisational leadership in the future will require this to be intrinsically linked to agility and the ability to utilise all resources to make informed decisions, even in times of uncertainty.

It appears 2022 will revolve around the dedication of leaders to their company culture and the accountability that they accept for creating a culture that is purposeful, inclusive, experimental, accountable, and collaborative — a culture that will help teams thrive in a hybrid and asynchronous model of working.

Another attribute employees look for from their leaders post-pandemic is egoless leadership. Leaders must work toward being approachable and, therefore, amiable to their workforce.

An egoless leadership would inevitably be an accountable one, too. This means people should have the ability to admit their shortcomings as a leader and reach out to a team for cohesive support. Leadership vulnerability, if done well and appropriately, can build the strength and cohesiveness of teams.

Ultimately, the future leader will be the one who focuses on people and takes a deep interest in knowing how they feel and what they want, which would engage the workforce to be inspired and perform exceptionally. Along with a people focus, leaders need to be more open to new ideas, willing to take risks, and innovate. With the road ahead so unsure, they will have to do this all with great humility.

Building a culture of trust, collaborating, learning agility, having empathy, encouraging innovation, building a tolerance to ambiguity, managing uncertainty, and constantly connecting and engaging will help organisations succeed in the disruptive business world. Future leaders will be acknowledged for demonstrating neo-leadership traits like tenacity during volatility, virtual empowerment, decisional agility, and emotional resilience.

Most importantly, learning agility and emotional quotient will be the differentiating competencies among the leaders trying to build an entrepreneurial and innovative culture in the workplace.

About Amit Das

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