Seven ways that 2020 changed leadership forever


There’s no doubt about it: leadership was put to the test in 2020. Over the course of the year, leaders of businesses everywhere had to step up to a monumental challenge. Not only have many businesses had to fight to stay afloat, but company leaders have been required to find new, creative ways to work remotely, motivate their team in the face of extreme adversity, and achieve their goals.

The notion of leadership has had a makeover as it became abundantly clear that leaders need to think creatively and put reactive strategies to the test. Transformational leadership has been necessary in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. Here are some of the ways in which this transformation has taken place.

Agility and adaptability

Quick decision making became essential for strong leadership over the course of 2020, and the ability to adapt at a minute’s notice has become second nature to many business leaders. As we’ve gone in and out of lockdowns, businesses have had to alter their strategies accordingly and make sure their priorities are always correct.

At the beginning of the pandemic in the UK, we saw many household names such as Vauxhall and Airbus adapt their strategy at the drop of a hat. They turned their attention to the uncharted territory of aiding the fight against coronavirus by helping in the manufacturing of ventilators and PPE, while putting their regular work to one side. For a leader, the decision to pause normal working procedures for the greater good cannot be taken lightly. Excellent leaders need to understand the impact and importance of these decisions, and know exactly the right time to adapt.

What’s more, with the market in most industries moving largely online, adaptability doesn’t end with the pandemic. True leadership is planning for the future and adapting business strategies accordingly.

Make home working a part of your policy

It goes without saying for many, but if your employees are able to work from home, make sure this option is available to them. According to the Office of National Statistics (ONS), 46.6% of people in the UK were working remotely (at least for some of the time) in April 2020. Whether in the midst of a lockdown or not, some members of your workforce are likely to feel nervous about the prospect of working in the office. Alternatively, many may find they were simply more productive working remotely, or enjoyed the balance more.

As a leader, it can be hard to wave goodbye to the traditional way of doing things. But if you show that you trust your employees by allowing them to work where they feel most comfortable, you’ll be rewarded with their gratitude and hard work.

Motivate from a distance

Although many of your employees might have embraced the work-from-home life, others are likely to have really struggled this year. Because of this, 2020 was the year in which leaders had to offer more motivation than ever, and from a distance.

Good leadership has taken on the form of increased connectivity, virtual team-building activities, and putting staying in touch at with all team members at the top of the priority list.

Mental health comes first

Increased connectivity with your team is a good start. But to be a truly great leader in 2021, it’s essential that you listen to the needs of your employees and do what you can to support them through this difficult time. According to Health and Safety England (HSE), work-related stress, depression and anxiety have consistently increased in the UK over recent years. The figures peaked in 2019/20, with 828,000 workers reporting their struggle. Offering mental health support to your workforce and being empathetic to everyone’s circumstances has become a crucial element to good leadership in 2021.

Clarity of communication

With so much changing, including new coronavirus restrictions being brought in at various points and in various regions, clear communication has become more important than ever. A good leader should never leave their workforce in the dark; communicate clearly, regularly, and instil confidence in your employees.

Confidence in the face of a crisis

If there’s anything that leaders came to learn during 2020, it’s how to remain confident in the face of a crisis. Although the health crisis has put leaders everywhere to the test, panic and uncertainty can take you and your business down a dangerous path. You may not know what to expect from the future. But as a leader, you should approach any difficulties with confidence in yourself, your team, and your business.

Vision for the future

It may be hard to imagine what the future will look like right now, but all good leaders need to be forward-thinking and constantly considering ways in which they can drive their business forward. We a lot of uncertainty in 2020, so it’s never been more important to create Covid-proof strategies that will allow you to lead your team into future success and prosperity.

The leaders of 2020 certainly had a lot to contend with, but many leaders can look back with pride on how they and their teams have adapted and achieved their goals in the face of a year that no-one could have anticipated.


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