What Should Be the Priorities For Leaders in 2021
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King Parikshit, according to a Mahabharata story, was cursed to die of a snake bite in seven days. The king immediately isolated himself and quarantined himself in a safe palace. On the seventh day a snake, Tashaka, converted himself into a tiny worm and entered a fruit. The fruit then reached the palace and the king ate the fruit. The worm then changed into a snake, bit him and he died.
This year taught us that a tiny virus can disrupt our plans though we have weapons of mass destruction, driverless cars and an ego that could foolishly think we could protect ourselves by building palaces to stay or walls around to protect us.
Most organizations and leaders managed the situation as best as they could, managed work from home possible for large number of employees, many organizations had to undertake large-scale cost cutting initiatives and millions of people lost their jobs.
What do leaders need to do in 2021?
Driving change: Leaders need to now focus on driving change initiatives that would help them to be more efficient and agile. They would need to clearly prioritise their short-term and long-term goals. While creating strategies and priorities are not tough for leaders but aligning everyone around these priorities and strategies would be the real challenge. Most leaders know that large-scale change initiatives usually fail due to lack of alignment and support from everyone. So leaders need to understand the psychology of change management and drive change in a participatory and co-creative way to avoid resistance.
Building positivity and hope: Joseph Campbell, American Professor, author and mythologist said, “Tragedy is an unfinished comedy”. Leaders would need to build hope and aspiration across the organization as prolonged uncertainty, physical and mental trauma and the social alienation that people experienced would be there in the collective psyche of the organization. Unfortunately superficial pep talks and artificial celebrations will not work. Leaders need to carefully plan and decide strategies and processes that could create positivity and hope if they want superior performance.
The best way to do this will be to engage the whole system in conversations that matters to all. Transparent and authentic communication will do more magic than a superficial pep talk. There will be ambiguities and uncertainties but being transparent about these uncertainties and creating platforms where people can voice their concerns, fears and problems will build more trust. The famous Mexican painter Frida Kahlo said, “At the end of the day, we can endure much more than we think we can.”
Build more social capital: Social capital helps communities and individuals to cope with difficulties. While leaders know about human capital we have not heard much about social capital. Social capital consists of the stock of active connections among people: the trust, mutual understanding, and shared values and behaviours that bind the members of human networks and communities.
We all know about resilience and resilience at an individual level is much spoken about and psychologists define resilience as the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress. Social capital enhances the collective resilience of a community, a state, a country or an organization. So, the collective resilience is the collective capacity of a community for adapting well and dealing with adverse situations, tragedy or threats to the community.
Leaders will focus on digitization, cost optimization, new organization structures and new strategies to be relevant. But the above three concepts, are at the core of making the digitization, cost optimisation and new strategies succeed. And if leaders miss these three things they might struggle to make changes stick.