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As Space2BE reviewed 2022’s requirements, it also considered what lessons can be learned from various worldwide leaders.  How have they altered their style and what does it tell us?

The retention challenge

The shrinking talent pool and the ‘Great Resignation’ have not gone away.  Employees are either demanding more of employers, or leaving roles altogether.  Bloomberg News reportage on China’s ‘Lie Flat’ movement, shows how placing too many demands on employees can force them to reassess priorities and opt for work-life balance over earnings and a career. ‘Pacesetting’ leadership, focused purely on results and goals, literally wears employees down.

Talent development

As recruitment competition intensifies, leaders must learn how to get the best out of their teams and develop their own home-grown talent.  Increasingly, they must align their vision with that of the growing number of employees from Gen-Z, who demand collaborative, not authoritarian leadership. The world’s reaction to Russian troops on Ukraine’s border indicates how alien hierarchical leadership and autocracy has become. It looks like the old guard, because it is an outdated leadership model.

Societal impacts

Tolerance of social injustice has never been higher and business leaders must shape their organisations in ways which encourage inclusion, diversity and equal opportunities, and which are built on strong communication, wellbeing, good mental health and corporate purpose.  

Whilst Tesla Inc’s $5.7bn charitable share donation (2021) may have been as much about tax-saving as philanthropy, the fact The Musk Foundation has appointed former poker player and altruism activist, Igor Kurganov, speaks volumes about the importance of ‘doing good’, to the retention of employee, customer and shareholder support.[1]

Collaboration in the workplace

Fostering collaborative working and buy-in to corporate vision is the 2022 way.  Mark Zuckenberg’s description of employees at Meta Platforms Inc as ‘Metamates’, was explained as being “about the sense of responsibility we have for our collective success and to each other as teammates.”  The term draws on naval references and the Instagram saying of ‘Ship, Shipmates, Self’.[2]

Here, we can perhaps detect a shift in Zuckenberg’s leadership style from ‘Transformational’ to ‘Affiliative’. It is not now all about the vision, but about fostering collaboration and a ‘people first’ mindset.  It’s in keeping with Gallup’s ’12 Elements of Engagement’,[3] which require today’s leaders to encourage, praise, coach, well-equip employees, foster workplace friendships, openly share the corporate vision, encourage a quality approach and align team members with roles allowing them to be “their best”.

Training leaders

Within some organisations, this can all feel a little left-field. Many are not used to leading in this manner.  Leaders need to be trained in fostering collaboration and new inter-connections.  Not all are natural coaches.  Some are floundering, knowing their old techniques just don’t work and this can induce stress and de-motivate. Many need support, whether that is in how to help deliver well-being, or how to secure higher levels of engagement.

Meanwhile, other leaders are already making their ‘tough calls’, recognising that, in 2002, people are the business.  Lewis Liu, co-founder and CEO of Eigen Technologies, has said his decision to allow all staff to permanently work from home was “one of the hardest I’ve ever had to make.”[4] Bowing to what the workforce wanted was the only sensible strategy.

Leadership self-awareness

These post pandemic times are calling us to go way beyond skills-development and into the territory of enhanced self-awareness and mindset shift.  Bolt’s co-founder, Ryan Breslow, has had to recognise that unorthodox leadership is not what investors and customers want to see.  After upsetting much of Silicon Valley, he meditated and decided to step back as CEO.  He is now recruiting seasoned leaders into day-to-day roles, perhaps demonstrating good self-awareness of his own leadership weaknesses.[5]

Finally, Boris Johnson is a leader who had to adapt his original leadership style, in a VUCA world, defined by Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity.  Amidst not just a fast-paced world driven by technological innovation, but also one decimated by a global pandemic, the Churchillian speeches and ‘Warrior’ style of his earlier years in office, often reflected in the temptation to jump in and do everything, have transformed into what is described as ‘Monarch’ leadership.  Increasingly, he has become more of a symbolic leader, delegating authority to those with niche knowledge, greater attention to detail and a better sense of perspective.[6]

Summary: leadership in 2022

Leadership style should be contextual, influenced by both our micro and macro environment.  Leadership style also has to be fluid, not fixed.  Fail to lead on leadership evolution and your leadership will simply fail.

For help with your leadership skills, or developing your top management team’s talents, please call 0208 720 6991.  We can build a programme around you and your organisation’s specific needs.