CEOs Navigating in a Time Like No Other

With the world in a state of flux, it’s clear CEOs and C-Suite leaders who will thrive in the next normal are the ones capitalizing on the continuing changes and innovation.

“One important thing CEOs and enterprise leaders learned over the past year-and-a-half is that the thinking and skillsets that got them to where they are today will need to be completely reworked for the next normal,” says Lisa Shall, an associate partner at The River Group. “Being agile, thinking outside the box and creating space to be innovative is what you need now to allow yourself to see and do all that is possible.”

Fortunately, it’s not totally about reinventing the wheel. Change still should be focused on the four known levers of transformation: strategy, organization, talent and leadership.

The differences are in the details.

“Organizational structure sometimes has been an impediment to working effectively,” says Peter Uher, PhD, a partner at The River Group. “But in this new environment, we’ve essentially seen things getting unfrozen – in terms of boxes, roles and fiefdoms – allowing leaders, their teams and organizations, to break out of restrictive definitions and collaborate to work better.”


Empathy Matters

The leaders who are emerging stronger also have stepped up and shown greater empathy and EQ (Emotional Intelligence) – either because they were wired that way or had a strong mentor to show them the way, he says.

“Those CEOs and C-Suite leaders who didn’t show greater empathy during these turbulent times tended to be suspicious and more controlling of their direct reports – for instance, questioning if the employees were working while remote,” says Uher, who has more than 25 years of experience implementing strategic initiatives. “These leaders seemed to lack the basic skills to engage and motivate, while overfocusing on assessing employees and keeping track of them as if they were still in the same physical workspace.”

He notes that “those leaders who over-focus on the controlling behaviors or monitoring tend to flame out or reach their maximum potential very quickly.”


Focus on the Culture

Creating a strong culture of respect and inspiration is a hallmark of top teams who consider all of the tangibles and intangibles, including the challenges of remote work, hybrid models, work-life balance, dual-career couples and managing children who are learning at home.

It’s likely that in the next normal many CEOs and C-Suite leaders will need to continue to navigate daily business with hybrid/remote work teams. Those who do it best will have confidence in their teams’ talents. They’ll create methods for virtual, distant teams to collaborate, connect and inspire each other. They will understand no one is motivated by a day filled with videoconferences.

“I encourage CEOs and C-Suite leaders to not look at leadership as one size fits all,” says Shall, who specializes in leadership assessment, organizational design, change management and talent management processes. “And when they look at their team, to see them as individuals.”


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