Leaders today need to be authentic, empathetic and adaptable to drive impact.
What it means to be a great leader changes (and becomes more complex) as organizations and society evolve. Leaders today need to lead in a new, more human, way while still achieving their core responsibilities, and this requires them to:
Role-model behavior to establish an effective work environment
“The way in which leaders approach these responsibilities has fundamentally shifted,” says Caitlin Duffy, Research Director at Gartner. “Social and political turbulence, work-life fusion and hybrid work arrangements blur the boundaries that previously shaped the leader-employee dynamic. Leaders must navigate not simply a leader-to-employee relationship, but a human-to-human one.”
Employees demand leaders take a more human approach to leading, but only 29% of employees say their leaders are effective human leaders. To succeed in today’s business environment, leaders need to be authentic, empathetic and adaptable.
Quality No. 1: Authenticity
Employees are asked to bring their “full selves” to work, which is difficult to do amid social and political turbulence. Only 26% of employees say that members of their team share similar opinions on such issues, which may create friction.
It’s not enough anymore to simply role-model professional behavior in line with the organization’s values. Leaders must also model what it means to bring ones’ “full self” to work and balance open expression with an inclusive environment that upholds company values. To create the space for safe self-expression in today’s environment, lead authentically and act with purpose. Instead of enforcing strict professional boundaries, human leaders enable safe personal expression at work.
We’re in a new era of work-life fusion where bedrooms have become makeshift offices and personal stresses may bleed into working hours. While the pandemic hastened this shift, generational shifts are also at play. Eighty-one percent of HR leaders say Gen Z employees expect leaders to demonstrate high emotional intelligence.
Leaders must go beyond supporting teams’ work needs and support their life needs as well. This requires greater empathy — showing genuine care, respect and concern for employees’ well-being. Instead of addressing the work needs of employees, human leaders address the life needs of people.
Quality No. 3: Adaptivity
Employees continue to demand greater work flexibility, prompting organizations to embrace remote and hybrid work. But the push for flexibility is about more than just location. It’s about when, how much, with whom and on what they work.
Eighty-seven percent of HR leaders say that employees now expect a more personalized work experience that suits their unique needs. Leaders must now manage tailored workflows where each employee’s circumstances are unique.
To make employees feel understood as individuals, leaders must show greater adaptivity — enabling flexibility and support that fits team members’ unique needs. Instead of managing standard workflows for efficiency, human leaders manage individualized workflows to deliver.
Shifts in today’s work and business environments have altered how leaders must approach their core responsibilities.
Social and political turbulence, work-life fusion and hybrid work calls for a new type of “human” leadership.
Three qualities make up a human leader: authenticity, empathy and adaptivity.
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