Why businesses need transformational leadership to succeed in a post-coronavirus economy

Why businesses need transformational leadership to succeed in a post-coronavirus economy

Strong leadership is important during every stage of a business’s journey, but especially so during a global pandemic that has triggered unbelievable economic disruption. Unsurprisingly, the coronavirus crisis is causing plenty of organisations to take stock of their current leaders, and weigh up whether they need to change their approach to deal with the inevitable changes to come.

As Chemistry’s CEO Roger Philby noted in the SAP ‘Working through Covid-19’ webinar: “We’re definitely seeing the nature of the conversations we’re having with our clients change. We’re known for helping organisations find the talent they need as they move into a new future. The big conversation now is ‘has the talent we need changed?’ and ‘are the requirements from our talent changing as a result of Covid-19?’.”

These are the kinds of questions we are helping businesses answer using our exclusive leadership assessment methodology. And with reform and reevaluation on the agenda for plenty of companies across all industries, a transformational leadership approach is certainly worth exploring. Here, we explain the main benefits and how this strategy can help businesses weather the ongoing economic instability.

Working from home could be the new normal

Back in May when we reported on business adaptations for the new normal, we referred to a Gartner survey revealing that three-quarters of CFOs think at least 5% of their workforce will become permanent work-from-home employees after the pandemic ends. More recently, a survey by Adzooma has found that 52.6% of workers didn’t ever want to return to the office. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: these are beliefs — not facts. Life has never been so unpredictable and it’s far too early to accept blanket statements like these as gospel. However, it is safe to say that working from home will be part of many businesses’ futures and they will need the right leaders to facilitate this transition.

Working from home best practices will obviously vary depending on the context of the business and each unique role, but whatever the circumstances, employees will only be productive when consistent cooperation and open communication are prioritised. It’s easy for members of a workforce to lose clarity, focus, and eventually morale once the face-to-face contact they are accustomed to is no more. Some leaders may simply examine set performance metrics and only check-in when absolutely necessary (like when something has gone wrong).

However, a benefit of a transformational leader is that they are a phenomenal communicator by nature, dedicated to clear and consistent messaging so every individual always knows what they’re doing and why they’re doing it. This means they will keep in daily, frequent contact with their employees while ensuring they have the technology they need to collaborate as a team. When communication is strong, there is no reason standards should slip while working remotely.

Anxious employees desperately need motivation

Although it’s understandable that business concerns will be at the forefront of leaders’ minds during this unprecedented situation, they also need to remember that employees aren’t just cogs in the machine — they are humans with their own stresses and anxieties. And when there is so much uncertainty about the future, you can hardly blame them for feeling demotivated. That’s why it’s never been so important for businesses to have transformational leadership that inspires the whole team and encourages them to keep working towards a common company vision.

Virtually all businesses are making changes of some sort in response to the pandemic, and can only implement them effectively if employees are engaged and committed. This was echoed by Helen Webb, the Chief People & Services Officer at Co-op, in conversation with Chemistry CEO Roger Philby during the ‘Working through Covid-19’ webinar. “We’re there to ensure the environment we create is one we want for our colleagues, and we involve them in that process,” she explained. “We know that the key driver of engagement in our organisation is involving our people in the change. I think that’s going to be the most important thing over the next few months.”

Transactional leadership is unlikely to help much in this situation as its mantra is one of consistency and predictability. Whereas a transformational leader isn’t afraid to take risks or give employees personal freedom, which is exactly what is needed to inspire and drive meaningful change.

An ethically-focused approach is more important than ever

One of the main reasons a transformational leader can inspire and motivate their team is that they know how to walk the walk when it comes to ethics. Their integrity will never be compromised and they openly live by the values the business aims to follow. During a global crisis, it’s comforting to have a leader committed to doing the right thing, where authenticity and transparency form the backbone of their approach.

As well as leading by example by exhibiting the values and behaviours the whole team is expected to follow, a transformational leader will be honest about the current situation and make sure everyone is always clued in so they can receive the support they need. This openness (while also re-emphasising the business values) cements the trust and respect of employees, encouraging them to pull together and continue to work to achieve the organisation’s goals.

Not only is authenticity important in terms of employee support, but also for branding. As noted in a recent article published by Harvard Business Review: “Companies need to show that their contributions are material and not solely for commercial benefit. Consumers recognise authenticity and true purpose.” And Co-op’s Helen Webb similarly believes that the brands prioritising profits over people will be punished for this later down the line. “I think we’ve all seen the headlines about the organisations that decided not to put their people first, and it’s been suggested that when there is some degree of normality, the public probably won’t forget that and will take their money and their economic participation to other organisations,” she warned. “I think it’s demonstrated that leaders have to think about the impact of their decisions on their people as well as the commercial reality.”

But remember that the best transformational leaders depend on your business context

As businesses ask whether they have the right leaders in the Covid-19 context, the benefits of transformational leadership are crystal clear. However, while this particular style could be incredibly valuable to your organisation, it’s crucial you find the right people to implement it. Perhaps the main disadvantage of transformational leadership is the potential chaos that can ensue if a leader inspires the workforce to behave in a way that isn’t in the company’s best interest. Now, we’re not necessarily saying they set out to sabotage the business — they just may not have the skills and traits needed for that particular business to succeed.

To ensure you have a transformational leader perfectly aligned with your unique business context, why not involve Chemistry in your recruitment process? Using our own data-led leadership assessment methodology, we work closely with our clients to find the high-performing leaders most likely to make positive impacts on their business.

Chemistry’s one-of-a-kind leadership assessment methodology

1. Thorough personal consultations

No two businesses are the same, which is why our leadership assessment methodology is entirely dependent on the context of each individual organisation. We have developed a one-of-a-kind process called What Great Looks Like (WGLL™), which uses psychometric data to define the traits associated with high performance in a specific workplace. This can often yield surprising results — our insights have revealed companies to inadvertently prioritise skills and characteristics that have minimal impact on their success, and would be better off focusing on less expected traits. And since these recommendations are all grounded in science, there is no risk of misinterpretation or miscommunication when it comes to defining requirements.

2. Advanced analytical insights

Once we have identified the traits which the most promising executives need to possess, we use our Five Box Model to map these characteristics against Intellect, Personality, Motivation, Behaviour and Experience. This allows us to document and measure the particular talent required by the business to succeed, and then profile the ideal executive candidate in terms of their skills and personality. That way, there is no risk that those responsible for hiring will be swayed or distracted by any irrelevant data, prejudices or distractions.

3. Customisable actions

Each shortlisted executive candidate will be assessed against this profile, so businesses can be confident that they will be choosing an individual who possesses every trait they need to improve the organisation’s performance. Overall, our leadership assessment methodology prevents executive hire failures that could be detrimental to a company’s success and ensures that the right leaders are in the right positions every time.

Is your business interested in exploring transformational leadership? Contact the Chemistry team to see What Great Looks Like for you.

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