The New Leaders: why greater trust means leaders must change their mindset

September 29, 2020

Nigel Girling

Head of Faculty
Graphic os a head made of cogs breaking into pieces
One of the most important and almost subliminal shifts brought about by the pandemic has been the growth in significance of trust.

Trust between colleagues. Trust between teams. Trust even between regions and nations. But above all of these, trust between management and staff and between a leader and their team.

We’ve known that collating people into an often arbitrary location had little practical benefit or purpose for many years, just as we’ve known that working from home is often a far more efficient use of time and demonstrably better for the wellbeing of many. Two things have perhaps held us back from fully committing to the shift:

  1. A lack of investment in and deployment of the technology, and
  2. a nagging sense of unease among particularly old-school managers about ‘letting people work unsupervised’.

Months of enforced home-working and virtual collaboration have slain that particular dragon. Managers have discovered, with varying degrees of surprise, that their people are often extremely capable of being trusted to work diligently and effectively without supervision and to function with a level of practical empowerment that might have been unimaginable a year earlier.

There are, of course, several implications:

a) Given that this ‘experiment’ of months of virtual and home working has been so successful for so many…. Now what? Do we press the ‘reset’ button and return to the ‘old normal’ or embrace this altered reality and roll it ever onwards?

b) If our people are now prepared and enabled to work without significant supervision or ‘direction’ and in collaborative and cross-functional ways… do we need those layers of supervisors and managers?

c) If we do, what role do we now want them to fulfil and what value do we need them to add?

d) If on the other hand we don’t, then what happens to them? Can they be redeployed to add value in different ways? Can they be repurposed as coaches and mentors? As seekers of improvement? As linkers & integrators? Or has their time come to an end?

e) If cross-functional team working really is the way forward… what sorts of organizational structure make sense now? If it can’t be the traditional hierarchy, then is it finally time for the matrix organization to predominate? Can we move to become an adhocracy, able to form and reform in an agile way?

Our response to these organisational challenges will define our successful negotiation of the next phase, as we move from storming into norming and then – if we get it right – into performing in this ‘world remade’.

Whatever we decide to do next, one thing is certain: our leaders and managers are facing a very different future and a future for which their mindset and skillset may not be fully prepared.

The wise organisation and the wise leader will need to reflect and give that some serious thought. Time to self-evaluate, consider what the future will hold and will require of you. That should produce some ideas of what development you, or your whole leadership team, will need to undertake.

It is going to be an interesting, uncertain and possibly quite bumpy ride for the next few years. Those who adapt the best will not only survive, but will grow, overtake and triumph.

Time to put on your thinking cap.



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