Creating an enabling environment where teams can thrive was an ongoing conversation pre-Covid. However, while some organisations forged ahead giving it all the effort it deserves to yield the desired outcomes, inertia got the best of others.

Understandably, some organisations have been very successful with their traditional cultures and structures in an environment of relative stability. The environment was changing too fast and with a degree of complexity that required a level of responsiveness traditional leadership styles, cultures and structures could not provide.

As a result, some organisations became obsolete, and some continued to compete favourably through digitization and the acquisition of start-ups – but not really paying much attention to culture shift and business agility.

Perhaps Covid-19 has succeeded in creating a burning platform, in the way a reference to a VUCA (Volatile – Uncertain – Complex – Ambiguous) world could not. Covid-19 may well have made the case for change going forward much more imperative, and the conversation much easier to facilitate from the perspective of a change agent.

The complexities and uncertainties of our current realities requires the wisdom of the crowd and a balance between centralization and decentralization of power and authority now more than ever – so decisions can be made speedily where the job gets done for responsiveness.

My Top Tips for Authentic Leadership in 2021:

Create Clarity:Ensure you have a clear and inspiring message of the vision and the ”WHY”. This ensures a balance between top down and bottom-up practice for defining Objective and Key Results (OKRs) for ownership and motivation.

Champion Vulnerability:Given the complexities in which organisations now operate makes this so critical. Leaders should facilitate the creation of a safe environment that embraces empiricism for innovation. Empiricism means there will be failures – The culture therefore must be one of safety for exploration, celebrating the failures and creating a learning organisation continuously in a world that never ceases to change.

Gemba Walks:Be visible and connect with people. Creating a clear vision so people understand, connect, and embrace the “WHY” is so important – but now we really need to consider the “WHO” also. Do you know the Who? Covid-19 shoved us all to embrace humanity, having been confronted with one of the biggest challenges of our time collectively.

This is an attribute we have long forgotten in favour of Professionalism, but who says we cannot do both? As an Authentic Leader in Covid times, you can achieve Gemba walks virtually also, be intentional about it and plan it into your schedule. With the current remote situation, show up announced or unannounced, join virtual meetings and check in with people and lead from the heart also.

System Improvement and Employee Engagement:Invest in robust health-check tools that make organisational impediments transparent and rolls them up for ownership, action and tracking.

People are tired of quarterly surveys and questionnaires, which over time have become another activity to complete for a tick in the box. With no visibility, responses often get forgotten with no ownership let alone action. System improvement and employee engagement should be continuous.

A quarter is a very long time to be disengaged – This comes at a huge cost to the organisation in more ways than one and constitutes a whole lot of waste.

Diversity and Inclusion:In these Covid times, leadership will need to be very intentional about this, lest it very quick slips into oblivion given the other pressing issues that needs urgent attention for business continuity. There are so many moving targets and balls to juggle.

Leadership will probably be better placed to seek a balance between the short term and longer-term gains.

Mary Laniyan is an Enterprise Agile Coach, Consultant, Trainer, SAFe Program Consultant, Scaled OKRs and Agility Health Facilitator. 

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