Futuristic Leadership

Rethinking Digital Leadership Skills

Many experts are espousing the notion that ‘Hybrid Work’ is the future for knowledge work roles.

The question is whether we have fully come to understand how this may play out in terms of:

  • leadership behaviour,
  • who, how often and when hybrid working is a good idea for a company and the individuals employees and
  • how we can maximise team productivity while maintaining strong emotional and mental wellbeing amongst the individuals within that same team – wherever they get the job done.

Leading remote and teams requires a different set of management skills to those required for managing in-office teams. 

Historically, companies promoted successful employees (i.e. those that made the biggest impact on the company bottom line) into management positions as a reward for a ‘job well done’. This premise may also assume that successful employees will be best able to lead successful teams. Even pre-pandemic this notion often proved unsuccessful. 

A recent McKinsey Report on ‘The Great Resignation’ found that employees prioritise: 

  • feeling valued by their organisation or manager
  • feel a sense of belonging at work
  • having a good work-life balance

Employees are also looking for better and stronger career paths where they are recognised and developed within their roles. These new expectations around satisfying work roles requires a very different management mindset.

With this in mind, keeping good employees is going to require:

  • team-based negotiation around working hours and how team members intend to meet individual and team KPI’s
  • open communication amongst team members with managers being a co-ordinator of (rather than the bottle-neck for) team knowledge, ensuring all team members are up to speed on projects they are involved in
  • regular coordination of work and project updates
  • regular check-ups on remote or hybrid team members
  • higher than average empathetic skills, emotional intelligence and social intelligence
  • ability to build a sense of community amongst project and team members – wherever and whenever individual members get work done. 

In addition to all of this, good leaders will understand:

  • the implications of remote and hybrid working on mental wellness and work-life balance
  • how various digital technologies impact on productivity levels, tiredness and cause anxiety or stress amongst team members
  • how to spot the signs of overwork, stress, tiredness, or mental exhaustion amongst their team and where to signpost them to help team members to strike a better balance. 

In summary, the way forward in the digital work marketplace is one that requires a different type of manager than the previous industrial revolution required. With a constant engagement with digital technology in order to get work done, knowledge workers do not need a ‘productivity-focussed manager’, but rather a human-centred manager that can help each team member achieve a more productive, focussed working life.