But when things return to the "old normal," I'm less optimistic for many so-called "leaders," because many will revert to doing things that weren't working before and certainly won't work post-pandemic.
So what does and will work when we return to rubbing shoulders with colleagues in team settings to innovate and collaborate? To effectively lead in peacetime will require a shift in mindset. Sounds like a cliché, right?
Truth is, if your company faced culture challenges that thwarted productivity and teamwork, you'll face the same challenges unless you change your leadership habits. Point being, leadership is a mindset, and if your employees lack motivation or don't respect or trust you, your first priority is to address what's going on between your ears.
3 ways to change your leadership habits
Having spoken to scores of leaders of successful and profitable organizations over the years, I can attest that exceptional leadership doesn't come easy -- it's a journey of continuous personal development, and there's no magic pill.
To illustrate what good leadership looks like once we return to the old normal, three executives shared some key habits that lend to good leadership that produces results.
1. Lead with a learning mindset
Paul Jarman, CEO of unified cloud customer experience (CX) provider NICE inContact, approaches everything with a learning-first mentality. "When you keep your mind open and give everyone in your organization a voice, every interaction is an opportunity for growth -- personally and professionally," shared Jarman.
Once an organization has reached a certain level of maturity, it can be tempting for leaders to avoid reinventing the wheel. By challenging yourself to keep learning, Jarman says, you're less likely to accept "the way things have always been done."
2. Lead with a positive mindset
Wade Brannon, CEO of Pigtails & Crewcuts, thinks back to his childhood and advice from his mother. "If I had a crisis going on that was more imagined by me, her standard response was 'Pull yourself up by your bootstraps and get on with it!'"
To some, that might sound cruel and unsympathetic, but in reality, it was just what Brannon needed to hear at the time. "I frequently find myself reminding myself to 'Pull yourself up by your bootstraps!'" says Brannon. "Certainly, the health and business climate are legitimate causes for concern and fear, but I believe that it is my job to present myself to my team and my franchisees as having a positive approach. Each day, I consciously choose to embrace a positive attitude and think through ways to make an impactful difference. This positive mindset shift can have a tremendous impact on the way you lead your team."
3. Lead with a community mindset
Saar Yoskovitz, CEO of Augury, an A.I.-based machine health solutions company, stresses the importance of keeping people connected -- and not just about work. "We aren't a 'remote-first company,' but we're adjusting well to it by keeping in mind that our company culture is our secret weapon," he says.
On St. Patrick's Day, Yoskovitz held a digital happy hour over hangouts with his team. People logged in, cameras on of course, and had their favorite drinks together from the comfort of their own homes.
"Many of our people are now working from home while taking care of their kids -- so we're making sure to give them more flexibility, understanding, and fun distractions," he explains, adding, "A large part of being on a team has little to do with deliverables; it's about feeling connected. So we're trying to create opportunities for remote work to feel more natural, more like Augury."
This doesn't change once you abandon Zoom rooms and return to conference rooms. Leaders coming back to the old normal have a great opportunity to foster a connection culture by defining or reinforcing their company values collaboratively, and making sure that employees actually take part in the process.
If a values approach to building community is a new endeavor, giving employees voice, ownership, and freedom to offer input for expected behaviors in the way they will interact with customers and fellow team members is a great motivator and engagement strategy.