The five key capabilities leaders need in 2022

Insight shared by:

Kiddy & Partners

The global unsettling we’ve experienced in the past two years has been disruptive and challenging to say the least. Organisations and leaders are grappling with finding certainty and trying to predict and anticipate solutions and answers. While a clear way forward seems a long way off, one of the most valuable things any HR leader can do is pause and reflect. The transformation of our internal and external operating environments has prompted many HRDs to ask: ‘What are the key capabilities needed to be an effective leader in this new operating environment’?

In a previous blog, Simon Brittain shared some tips on how to create a good leadership framework, so here I reflect on the key leadership capabilities for the new normal, drawing on our assessment experience as well as research we’re currently conducting at Kiddy.

Leadership has always required an ability to successfully navigate through unchartered territory, but never has this been more apt than now. Over the past two years, we’ve seen many leaders clearly demonstrating adaptability and agility, as immediate changes have been required of them to continue to deliver in their roles. However, what’s increasingly concerning our clients is how can they maintain effectiveness as we move forward. How can they build leaders’ skillsets so that they and their teams not only survive but thrive in the new normal?

How can we set our leaders up for success through the pandemic and beyond?

There is some consensus about the key capabilities that tend to predict effective leadership, particularly in rapidly changing and unpredictable environments. Adaptability and learning ability are key, and in response to the changing expectations of leaders, so too are empathy, authenticity and inclusive leadership.

Here are five key competencies your leaders will need to succeed in the current context:

  1. Adaptability - Businesses and their people have had to adapt quickly in the wake of this pandemic; there’s been no other option. Leaders who are flexible and adaptable are more likely to succeed in a rapidly changing work environment, but it is important that leaders adapt in a way that is sustainable. A recent study found that 74% of UK respondents are stressed and anxious at work. While it’s important to ensure we keep moving forward and responding to challenges, as a counterbalance, encourage your leaders to take time to pause for their own wellbeing (and encourage their teams to do the same). This will help ensure they maintain the motivation and energy to continue to deliver. 
  2. Learning Ability - In any rapidly changing, unpredictable environment, a leader’s ability to learn and adapt is a key driver of future success, including concepts such as openness to feedback, learning orientation, and learning agility. In fact, an individual’s ability to learn is a better predictor of an individual’s ability to perform in a future role than their past job performance.  We’re seeing many success stories of leaders taking on new challenges and learning new skills in response to these challenges. Ensuring leaders take the time to reflect on their learnings through periods of change, particularly from things that went wrong, will help build capability and chances of future success. 
  3. Empathy - A key skill for leaders, particularly now at a time when the evidence shows individuals are feeling burned out by work and the challenges associated with working from home.  Research has found that highly effective leaders are able to exhibit a high degree of understanding, particularly when working in virtual settings. Listening to individuals’ experiences, understanding their challenges and adapting engagement with colleagues appropriately will be key to ongoing success
  4. Authenticity - Leaders are genuine, reliable, trustworthy, real, and veritable.  In times of challenge, encourage your leaders to be as open and honest with their teams as possible. Authentic leadership harnesses trust which increases psychological safety and work engagement.
  5. Inclusion - We have talked extensively about the importance of Inclusive Leadership and what it actually looks like. With teams geographically dispersed and diversity and inclusion becoming increasingly prominent in business’ agendas, it’s important to ensure your leaders understand their part in creating an inclusive culture and that you are doing what you can to develop inclusive leadership behaviours in your people.    

While some of these skills are considered ‘metacompetencies’, likely to be helpful to leaders across organisations, it’s also important to consider what additional skills your leaders need to succeed in your specific context. Kiddy are skilled at defining the leadership frameworks suitable for your tomorrow and are experienced in assessing leaders’ fit and accelerating their performance. 

If you would like to talk to Kiddy about how we can help you ensure you have the right leaders with the skillsets to succeed in your new normal, please get in touch. 

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[1] DiMenichi, B. C., & Richmond, L. L. (2015). Reflecting on past failures leads to increased perseverance and sustained attention. Journal of Cognitive Psychology, 27(2), 180-193.

[2] Kayworth, T. R., & Leidner, D. E. (2002). Leadership effectiveness in global virtual teams. Journal of management information systems, 18(3), 7-40.

[3] Luthans, F., & Avolio, B. J. (2003). Authentic leadership development. Positive organizational scholarship, 241, 258

[4] Hassan, A., & Ahmed, F. (2011). Authentic leadership, trust and work engagement. International Journal of Human and Social Sciences, 6(3), 164-170.

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