We must develop new leadership skills for this new world

Everyone’s lives have been turned upside down by the pandemic. Bold leadership is now more important than ever to push forward the ambitious changes that are necessary to reimagine business models and speed up recovery.

New possibilities and uncertainties mean that leaders have to be more agile in their management skills to position their organizations for the long term. They will need to reassess their operating models based on digitization and how their employees work best.

Now is a time for anticipation and reflection, while planning a sharp change in mindset. Leaders need to review their organizations' infrastructures and processes to make sure they can deal with change. They need to be prepared for a future that could be riddled with disruption.

As a result, it is a time to regroup and rebuild. As McKinsey points out in a recent report, companies that are robust and resilient will be better placed to survive and exploit opportunities. These qualities, however, must be “cultivated.” This is where effective leadership comes in.

Planning the new-look workspace

Working from home has become a necessity across industries and regions in a bid to contain the virus. This has accelerated a move to flexible working, which combines working in the office and at home.

A recent survey of industry leaders by Gartner found that 82% of organizations plan to allow employees to work from home some of the time. This new model will remove geographic barriers, providing greater access to talent, lower costs and more individual flexibility, which has been shown to improve productivity.

However, it isn’t as easy as it sounds. The current crisis has tested organizations’ abilities to support a distributed home workforce. In addition to a secure technological infrastructure to support flexible working, managing a flexible workforce at scale requires certain skills.

Strong remote management and motivational skills are essential. Building trust between management and the team is imperative, and the focus must be on output not processes. I agree with Brian Kropp, Distinguished Vice President at Gartner, when he says one of the key engagement drivers for employees is “seeing their work contribute to company goals.” This is and should be the way forward.

Empowering employees with the cloud

On the technological side, leaders understand that cloud is now central to business transformation. They have witnessed for themselves the power of cloud in keeping business operational during the height of the pandemic.

This unprecedented global health emergency has made leaders sit up and take note of the elasticity that cloud brings to processes, bolstering business outcomes. In fact, 70% of my customers are now stepping up their cloud transformation to further exploit the agility, speed and efficient scalability of the cloud.

With an increasing number of organizations moving from becoming producers of applications, as opposed to consumers, we are seeing the rise of the cloud-native enterprise. They are developing applications that take full advantage of cloud’s security, flexibility, resilience and continuous delivery methods for competitive advantage.

This transition demands a “programmatic initiative,” according to IDC. This revolves around an increase in development-related automation, upskilling developers and deepening the adoption of DevOps. Organizations that can effectively make this move will be better able to respond to the creation of digital solutions that satisfy immediate and long-term strategic business issues.

Cloud native will enable enterprises to dramatically speed up the development and testing of applications, reducing delivery times to hours as opposed to weeks.

But to be a successful cloud-native enterprise, leaders must be prepared to embrace the concept of collaborative development and drive their organizations into a whole new era of agility. Leaders must be trail blazers for change, recognizing gaps in skillsets and filling them, and reshaping the way people think and effectively communicate the business value and opportunities this brave new world offers across the organization.

Uncertainty will remain for a while

Nothing is black and white anymore. We are all going to have to live with ambiguity for months to come. Resetting an organization for post-pandemic success is not easy. But the low-touch, high-tech world we are entering requires a new suite of leadership capabilities.

Recovery will bring with it a broad range of challenges. Leaders will need to understand how they can leverage digital to optimize business performance and create new business models to stay ahead of the competition.

Leaders should focus on what uniquely binds their teams together. They need to create an even stronger company identity and instill stability in the workforce. In addition, it is important to nurture innovation and utilize the positive elements of flexible working, such as increased motivation.

These supercharged leadership skills will require bravery and strategic thinking. There is no map to this new world. Leaders must not be frightened of taking their own road and using their instincts. Leaders who follow like sheep will struggle to reinvent their enterprises for what is coming next.

Find out how you can integrate new collaborative working tools into your business process.

Richard Van Wageningen

Richard van Wageningen is CEO of Orange Business Services in Russia and CIS and is the Head the IMEAR (Indirect, Middle East, Africa and Russia) region. He has extensive leadership experience in the IT and telecommunications industries – both in services and equipment manufacturing – and holds degrees from Groningen State Polytechnics and the University of North Carolina. Richard has lived in Russia for more than 10 years and speaks fluent Russian.