The role of leaders in times of crisis is sometimes questioned. When the world economy, geopolitical and financial situation began to spiral out of control, leaders had to act quickly; not having much time to analyse what strategy they should adopt. Those who showed both determination and empathy did well at managing change during this period. What’s more, they also raised the bar in terms of their response. And so the questions that we pose here are: ‘What is the role of a leader when it comes to managing change?’; and ‘What is change management?’
Change management - uncertain times call for new skill sets
We live in challenging times where new economic commotions are overlapping with disruptions that are already in full swing. The heat is being felt not only in the manufacturing, energy and transport industries, but also in the financial sector, where the need for information and a consistent response to change is vital. Indeed, the Russian aggression against Ukraine only accelerated the changes that had become embedded, such as deepening inflation, slumps in industrial production, restrictions in supply chains, and increased migratory flows.
Financial shocks and downturns create a scenario of choppy waters that is difficult for leaders to navigate. Some of them give up and carry out their duties with minimal commitment, while others find the strength and courage to persevere under the new and unfolding circumstances. We certain need more the latter, but does change management require new competencies on the part of leaders?
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Holding a course or blazing a trail
We can distinguish between two types of leaders. One type takes a cautious and defensive stance when it comes to tackling instability or uncertainty. Such leaders focus on the risks that occur when looking to bolster the company against future potential turmoil, whilst remaining flexible. The second type of leader uses the current turmoil to reinforce their strategy and take decisive actions, relying on the instability to be a catalyst that will stimulate the creation of new opportunities.
These types of leadership have different ways of responding to difficult situations:
- Conservative types – do not take risks; they wait for what the future will bring and analyse the available data.
- Transformative types – take risks; they look to innovate and create a shared vision. They nurture a climate and culture that inspires and mobilises employees to achieve the best possible results.
Today’s leaders are all about transparency
In uncertain times, empathy and firmness are considered some of the basic qualities of leadership. Being empathetic helps keep employees happy; while being resolute will steer them towards a clear course of action. But that’s just for starters.
The labour market is competitive and leaders must be transparent in their goals, defining the company’s values, so that employees identify with them. Leaders should share the direction and path of the transformation, but they also need to possess a sensitivity and honesty that goes beyond sharing data or plans – this means raising awareness of the importance of goals and the means by which they may be achieved. In other words, stimulation and meeting needs are the order of the day. In this sense, leaders must not only manage change, but also inspire others to be creative and actively seek solutions.
Leaders must not only work on their personal development and hone their skill sets, but they must also forge a sense of community partnership, which will allow everyone to keep their finger on the pulse and react to change in all its forms.
Authentic leaders recognise that transparency is essential for building strong relationships with others. They understand the importance of trust, because they have to forge a direction through their beliefs and actions: and with the right skills, it will always be easier to achieve this goal.
Leader in the era of change management
Change management guides employees through the implementation of innovative solutions, because preparation is crucial for a successful transition. For this you need experts with passion, knowledge and persistence when it comes to pursuing their long-term goals; it is their involvement that will help the company through difficult times when things don’t go as planned.
Leadership in uncertain times is not about having bookish qualities, but rather the ability to read situations, analyse, and make bold decisions. Sometimes persistence is call for in uncertain times; whereas other times it is all about risk-taking. Regardless of their qualities, leaders should always be empathetic, creative and visionary. They also have to understand the power of change and focus on developing both themselves and others. Leaders in uncertain times must also have a visionary spirit that looks beyond the usual patterns so as to be able to find new ways to deal with challenges. What remains immutable is the fact that both the obtaining of new qualifications, MBA studies, accreditations; and participating in webinars and projects, facilitate scope and insight when it comes to interpreting risks, anticipating unexpected situations, and analysing problems.