A New Leadership Paradigm for a New Work Economy

| 4 minutes

A recent panel discussion co-hosted by McCarthy Tétrault LLP and Deloitte Canada surfaced important leadership principles for today’s executives who are facing a paradigm shift in the work economy. The juxtaposition of the pre-COVID work environment and the emerging new work economy, have left many scrambling to adapt their leadership style to the “Future of Work” which arrived sooner than anyone could have predicted.

Long-standing management principles have been flipped on their heads. To manage at the pace of change, leadership will need to be just as flexible and agile. Below we explore how effective business leaders are shifting their mindsets to adapt to a new leadership paradigm.

1. Shift focus from inputs to outcomes.

Before the pandemic, we focused on inputs: the conditions we thought would generate the desired results. Now, with most work conditions turned upside-down, leaders need to focus on outcomes.

Be clear about the outcomes, precise about the timeline, and specific about who is accountable for what – but be flexible about how things get done within that basic framework.

2. Trust your team.

We used to think people wouldn’t get their work done if they didn’t come into the office, weren’t supervised, and couldn’t meet face-to-face. We now know those assumptions aren’t necessary or helpful – people can work independently. They get work done because they choose to.

Remote leadership means respecting, and relying on, the autonomy and judgment of your team. Trust them – if you let your people decide to succeed, they will.

3. Stay motivated.

This period has been characterized by change and upheaval, it may have also seemed monotonous. To prevent fatigue inspire your team to shake things up.

Encourage experimentation with new ways of thinking and working. Adjust your daily routine. Try new set-ups that suit your lifestyle. Take a call on the treadmill or knit during a meeting. Take your laptop on the balcony or in the backyard. Even a small change can keep you and your team motivated.

4. Let your guard down.

The pandemic has brought the workplace into our homes and personal lives. While it may seem like your “worlds” are colliding, take this as an opportunity to learn about your colleagues and to embrace the diversity of your team. This can mean asking colleagues about their daily routine, their family, their home office, their hobbies and interests, or simply what they are watching on Netflix.

At the same time, the pandemic has affected everyone differently, and some people may be finding the adjustment harder than others. Keep that in mind when communicating with your team. Be open to personal connection, but mindful about privacy.

5. Be curious.

Working remotely can present unique challenges to your team members based on their personalities and communication styles. Some will assert themselves naturally while others may find it more difficult to do so. Introverts may find it easier to adjust while extroverts may struggle. Take care to engage your team directly in their preferred styles.

When leading a video meeting, welcome each person by name. Do this even with larger groups so that people will turn their cameras on. They will feel included and appreciated, which will enhance their contributions.

Cut the agenda in half and ask more questions. Leave room for “virtual white space”. Even if pauses can be uncomfortable, they enable ideas to emerge and create space for different views.

6. Raise the bar.

People change more easily than expected. The pandemic has shown us that we are adaptable and can be productive despite challenging circumstances. Drive momentum by leaning into change. Develop an innovation task force or identify change initiatives that may be accelerated. Organizational capacity for change has increased. Now is the time to raise the bar on what’s possible for you and your team.

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