4 Actions for Great Leadership in 2021

It’s a pretty different world we’re all navigating now than it was a year ago. The adjustment phase is largely over and we’re choosing to focus with gratitude on what we can learn from these extraordinary times. The lessons thus far are incredibly valuable, and they’re validated by what we see in the experiences and data of our customers. 

Great leaders have the resilience to adapt to new realities and understand the strategic imperatives they introduce. In that spirit, here are four actions you can take to align your leadership in 2021 with what your employees, customers and communities need.  

Build and preserve the right culture

Culture grows out of values, and values have shifted rapidly over the past year. In fact, according to JP Morgan’s annual business leader survey, a substantial 47 percent of small business leaders surveyed said their core business values have changed since the beginning of the pandemic. 

The most common shifts are businesses placing greater emphasis on community, employee relationships and digital tools/solutions that support their work (in short, empathy). This makes sense. With health, financial security and daily routines disrupted, there’s been a return to valuing relationships and leaning harder on technology to connect and collaborate. 

By aligning your organization’s values and performance with company-wide behaviors, you can create a high-impact culture. Here are three steps we recommend to help elevate values in your culture. 

Clearly define a shared purpose and vision for you and your team

In the short time since we launched the RallyBright platform, dozens of organizations and hundreds of teams have used it to pinpoint their biggest challenges and opportunities. By far the biggest issue we see on teams – even highly motivated and well-intentioned ones – is the lack of a shared purpose and vision. 

If you’re a leader, take care not to assume that this is obvious information. Teams need regular, frequent, all-hands conversations (with everyone participating) about what their shared goals are. In times of crisis or prolonged disruption, these conversations are more important than ever in fortifying resilience. Connecting with purpose is a powerful antidote to the burnout and lack of motivation that high-stress times can bring. When that purpose ties to both the mission and values of the organization, the impact is even greater.

It’s hard not to have blind spots as a leader. To bring your team along on the purpose and vision front, it’s critical that the entire team has the opportunity and space to share their perspectives. We’ve seen this done with impact in a number of ways. For example, via virtual “offsites” or workshops. Or even by asynchronous solicitation and aggregation of input by the team leader and members alike. The strongest shared purpose is one that is truly shared; it has buy-in from everyone. 

Invest in tools that strengthen you and your team’s EQ

Emotional intelligence-related skills like self-awareness, empathy and conflict resolution have received renewed attention in recent years  as research increasingly links them to better personal and professional results. The recent cultural shifts among organizations, cited above, has made such skills even more important to leadership in 2021.

There are several readily-available tools that can help you and your team develop the discrete skills that make up EQ. We’re big fans of assessments that increase self-awareness such as the DISC assessment and conflict style assessments (both are included for every user on the RallyBright platform). We’ve found that tools like these help you learn more about how you and your colleagues work. On the self-management front, the mindfulness program Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) is renowned for its impact. For a quick, more general 15-minute EQ assessment that includes helpful follow-up suggestions, we like this one from MindTools. 

Embrace social media as a powerful remote leadership tool

You probably didn’t expect to see this one on the list. But social media has indeed become more important for leaders since WFH became the norm for most of the world’s nonessential office workers. 

In its annual survey for 2020, the Brunswick Group found that the majority of employees surveyed place greater trust in (61 percent) and prefer working for (68 percent) CEOs that are active on digital and social media. The reason they cited? People want accessible leaders. Especially right now, when visible, engaged leadership can serve as a reassuring and stabilizing presence. Most every leader has honed their remote leadership skills since March. Now it’s time to include a strong digital presence in that bucket. 

With the right focus, a commitment to continuous learning and growth, and true care for your team, the year ahead can be a breakthrough year for your team and organization. 

What does great leadership in 2021 look like to you? I’m so curious to know – drop me a line at john@rallybright.com and let’s compare notes!