When organisations thrive, the role and effect of strong leadership is often downplayed. Progress tends to be attributed to the broader machine, with each component playing a part. It is in times of desperation and struggle that the value of leadership becomes obvious. As 2021 gets underway, it is vital that executives and managers consider the role they can play in building resilience throughout their organisation. Times are tough; now more than ever, our leaders must rise to the occasion.
Being a leader is often a thankless task. The stereotypical images of heroism we associate with leadership – sporting, war time, or even political – are a stark contrast to the reality of executives and workplace managers.
Employees are headhunted for or promoted to positions of leadership for their ability to keep the organisation moving. That does not necessarily mean doing glorious, stimulating work 24 hours 7 days a week. More often than not, leadership is about grunt work. When someone else is not pulling their weight, it is up to a leader to pick up the slack. They will not get the credit, but their efforts will keep the organisation running smoothly.
The greatest testament to a leader’s quality is not their trophy cabinet, salary or public profile – it is better to look to the health of an organisation as a whole.
That is why good leadership becomes so obvious in times of crisis. When the chips are down, capable leaders rise to the occasion, carrying their organisation through the mud while everyone else is lost and confused.
Deloitte’s CEO Survey – involving respondents representing more than 15 different industries – gives an insight into the importance of leadership in negotiating the challenges of 2020. More than two thirds of those surveyed said that their organisation’s revenue will return to pre-Covid levels by the middle of this year. 50% say that their employment levels have remained constant throughout the pandemic – a remarkable achievement given the economic losses suffered worldwide.
Australia’s imminent vaccine roll out and improving contact tracing systems means that a brighter year beckons. However, as noted by Punit Renjen writing for Deloitte, our trials are far from over. Even if we are over the hill when it comes to Covid, we are not out of the woods. An accelerating rate of disruption will be a pillar of our future.
And that is what makes the role of the leader so important in 2021.
In 2021, we need executives and managers to future-proof their organisations. The key to success in this regard is building resilience.
What sets a leader apart from other employees is his or her ability to succeed in times of ease and difficulty. Employees without leadership training can lose their way when what they know goes out the window. Organisations require resilient workers at every level in years to come given the predicted frequency of disruption and adversity in the future. In this sense, leaders can be the spark that starts the fire; by spreading their attitudes and practices, we can begin fortifying our organisations.
Punit Renjen provides some great examples of how leaders can sow the seeds of this resilient mindset. One key shift is encouraging an acceptance of ‘business as unusual.’ So long as employees continue to expect our world to return to a pre-Covid normal, the measures they adopt to respond to Covid-induced disruptions will be short-term and unsustainable. True agility and resilience is founded on an acceptance that our reality will constantly shift and evolve. As our attitudes change, our critical thinking and adaptive capacities will develop, strengthening our organisations by empowering its component parts.
Renjen also affirms the centrality of reimagining what we mean when we talk about ‘agility.’ Modern agility transcends an individual’s ability to think on his or her feet; our organisations require collective agility. We must develop corporate ecosystems which facilitate collaboration and synergy. Resilience relies on our teams moving as one, following our strategies and doing our best with the cards we are dealt.
To sum up, 2020 was a year where our organisational leaders proved their worth. At the core of their demonstrated value was their capacity to bounce back from adversity. The greatest contribution our leaders can make in 2021 is spreading this resilience across every level of their organisations.
Adversity is hurtling towards us thick and fast. As usual, our eyes turn to those with the nerve and willingness to tackle these challenges head on. By fortifying our organisations with resilience, our leaders can weather the storm and guide us towards the golden sky.