The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted human societies around the world. This public health emergency was followed by a significant loss of human life; the ensuing social restrictions led to loss of employment, lack of interactions, and burgeoning psychological distress. As physical distancing regulations were introduced to manage outbreaks, individuals, groups, and communities engaged extensively on social media to express their thoughts and emotions.

Pandemic is the true test of leadership. In our darkest moments, we look to our leaders to find the light. Leaders must demonstrate vision, purpose, courage, and strength to move forward without a clear roadmap.

This ability to embrace uncertainty and develop new skills rapidly will be the hallmark of great leadership in the years ahead. Meanwhile, leaders who continue business as usual will be your greatest risk.

According to Global Leadership Forecast 2021 leaders found themselves working harder than ever to pivot the business, while trying to show empathy and connect with their teams on a more human level. And they saw how hard other leaders are working as well. As a result, they were more generous in their quality ratings.

Start with Empathy

Beyond empathy, leaders’ ability to manage the flow of work is most critical. Excellent skills in coaching and delegation ensure that people are getting the right amount of work and resources to complete it. In addition, leaders’ ability to influence others plays a major role in helping to prioritize work and energize teams around common goals.

In looking at the leadership skills that differentiate high-performing companies from low performers, the three biggest areas are leading change, coaching and delegation, and building partnerships. These capabilities point out that great leaders don’t just lead. They also collaborate, partner, and bring people with them. Great leaders create followership. Effective interactions are what make up the core of leadership.

The moments that leaders can connect and the conversations they have with team members, peers, and customers define how effective (or ineffective) they are. Without positive interactions, coaching suffers, employee engagement dives, and the ability to influence disappears.

Leadership skills critical for future success

Over the next three years, leaders see their organizations undergoing rapid transformation. As a result, they place a high priority on the skills that will enable them to line up both the technology and people resources they’ll need to make that transformation a success.

According to Global Leadership Forecast 2021, fewer than half of leaders feel they are effective in most of these skills. Even worse, they aren’t getting development in the skills they need most urgently, as shown in the top left quadrant of the grid (Figure 1). Only 28% of leaders say they are currently being developed in any of these areas.

At the top of the list is identifying and developing future talent, as companies are increasingly concerned about their bench strength to meet new challenges. In line with that, managing successful change will be a top priority.

Figure 1. Where Leaders Need Help the Most
Source: Global Leadership Forecast 2021, ©Development Dimensions International, Inc., 2021

Inclusive Leader – leadership style in the heart of changes

Inclusive leadership behaviors are about how to be a successful leader in these tumultuous times. For the 21st century leader of the future, inclusiveness is the new currency of power: influence and effectiveness. It is the catalyst for unleashing talent to the fullness of its potential – the power of us all – which in turn provides the jet fuel that companies require to seize unprecedented opportunities.

DIVERSITY is about getting a mix of different people in the team

INCLUSION is about ensuring that mix is working well

EQUITY is fulfilling the promise that they all have equal access, opportunity, support, and rewards.

Inclusive leadership allows for more effective leadership across the board while still being change agents in addressing specific diversity and inclusion challenges. Inclusive leaders can be effective advocates for diversity, fully embracing the business. They can champion initiatives that make inclusion an organizational priority by ensuring they are addressing both behavioral and structural inclusion.

Being an effective inclusive leader requires specific skills, mindsets, experiences, and self-knowledge. These attributes can be defined, measured, assessed, coached, and developed.

Korn Ferry Institute has developed the Inclusive Leader Model, based on the analysis of more than 3 million leadership assessments, thousands of in-depth interviews and a series of focus groups. This model reflects three expanding spheres of impact, flowing from self, team and organization, which revolve around three key concepts: traits, competencies and biography.

Traits focus on who a person is. They include an individual’s personality, sense of purpose and values that indicate a person’s preferences and explain the leader’s disposition toward differences. The model identified five clear trait clusters that inclusive leaders possess:

  1. Authenticity: Acting with humility, setting aside your ego and establishing trust in the face of opposing beliefs, values or perspectives.
  2. Emotional resilience: The ability to remain composed in the face of adversity and difficulty around differences.
  3. Inquisitiveness: Openness to differences, curiosity and empathy.
  4. Self-assurance: A stance of confidence and optimism.
  5. Flexibility: The ability to tolerate ambiguity and to be adaptable to diverse needs.

Together, these five traits form the foundation for inclusive leadership. Competencies, which are skill based, focus on what people do. Here are the five clusters of competencies that are part of the Inclusive Leader Model:

  1. Builds interpersonal trust: They are honest and follow through, and they establish a rapport by finding common ground while valuing perspectives that differ from theirs.
  2. Integrates diverse perspectives: They consider all points of view and others’ needs, and they skillfully navigate conflict.
  3. Optimizes talent: They motivate others and support their growth, and they join forces for collective success across differences.
  4. Applies an adaptive mindset: They take a broad worldview, adapt their approach to suit the situation and innovate by leveraging differences.
  5. Achieves transformation: They are willing to confront difficult topics, bringing people of all backgrounds along to achieve results.

So what now?

What you are going to do as a leader, potential leader?

One of Banksy’s pieces, entitled Mobile Lovers references to modern technology that warns us to be conscious of what we’re spending our time and attention on. Nothing that exists on a screen is more important than what is happening right in front of us. By being constantly preoccupied, we could miss out on meaningful opportunities and connection with others.

Banksy, Mobile Lovers