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So much has changed since Covid-19 first hit the US in March 2020 – from how and where we work to what is expected of employers to how we prioritize our values. We have witnessed the Great Resignation, historically low unemployment and skyrocketing inflation. Over the past three years, the role of the CEO has evolved to meet the rapidly changing needs of staff and customers.
I’ve been privileged to see new best-in-class leadership practices emerge as a direct result of the massive change brought about by the pandemic. While mission, vision and values remain the central tenants that define the North Star of any company, great leaders know they cannot stand still in their quest for success.
Below are some of the big shifts I think exemplary leaders have made thanks to the many lessons learned over the past three years:
Related: Top 3 Leadership Skills to Maintain in a Post-Pandemic World
Mastering the new CEO mindset
With no playbook in hand, the pandemic forced business leaders across the board to abandon long-held beliefs and lean into the moment to make real-time decisions. Great leaders were able to let go of their sense of control and learn to thrive in the midst of uncertainty and turmoil with a collaborative mindset. Now that the pandemic is over, CEOs are finding success by staying open-minded and agile.
They listen to customers and employees and also test and iterate to arrive at the best solution. Giving up a fixed mindset has created opportunities to learn, adapt and create something entirely new. Many see how offering new flexibility to employees has made their businesses more productive and competitive. The world of work continues to change at a rapid pace. In today’s world, it’s just as important to anticipate and plan for a variety of possibilities as it is to be ready to flip on a dime if unexpected circumstances arise.
Turning vulnerability and transparency into a superpower
Before Covid, many CEOs saw vulnerability as a sign of weakness. During the pandemic, great CEOs learned to embrace open, transparent, and honest communication, even when the truth was hard to share. And it is now common knowledge that listening to different opinions is not a weakness. Now hierarchies and command and control structures are being replaced by leaders who really try to understand what is happening on the front lines of their companies by speaking regularly to employees who interact directly with customers. Leaders now listen to and learn from employees at all levels of the company, rather than feeling like they have to come up with all the answers themselves.
Related: Why Vulnerability Is A Strong Business Leader’s Most Powerful Weapon
Think bigger and anticipate
More than ever, top CEOs are actively seeking outside perspectives. When organizations make decisions in a vacuum, groupthink and confirmation bias can emerge. Great leaders accept that they often have to get away from the company to work ‘on the company’. The world is more complex than ever. And CEOs are responsible for taking what’s happening in the surrounding world, understanding it and building plans around it. By anticipating the business impact of everything from inflation to supply chain and economic factors, leaders make better decisions and discover new solutions.
Recruitment and retention of the right team
CEOs are still responsible for determining their company’s strategy, culture, organization, results and execution. And Covid reaffirmed the importance of hiring and retaining the right people to execute on those plans. When the talent war erupted during The Great Resignation, it became clear that loyal and engaged employees are an unparalleled differentiator in challenging times. These are the people who are willing to roll up their sleeves and help the organization overcome obstacles.
Without the right people in the workforce, a company will always spend resources on attracting and training a new wave of talent instead of focusing on customer experience and bottom line. Great CEOs have always known that their team is most engaged when employees understand how their work relates to the company’s purpose. Now successful CEOs are implementing strategies that flow throughout the organization. With a strong team, everyone has a voice, from intern to C-suite – both increasing engagement and exposing alternative ways of thinking.
Related: 5 lessons the pandemic has taught entrepreneurs
When the pandemic hit, every leader had to be willing to throw out their three-year plan and start all over again. While the pandemic brought devastating hardships and unknown challenges, it also allowed us to open our minds to a new wave of leadership. CEOs who were able to embrace the changing tide have created a framework for what works in the future.
The CEO no longer acts alone in a corner office with closed doors reporting plans with little to no feedback. Today’s leader can best be described as agile, humble, vulnerable, transparent, eager to learn, collaborative and employee-oriented. For CEOs, there has never been a more exciting time than now to make a lasting impact on the future of leadership.