We all have had a tough 2020, and 2021 is proving to be equally challenging. Just when we thought that the worst of the pandemic was over, the optimism over the vaccine was there, we saw a second wave of spike in cases. We are now experiencing the second wave of the pandemic.
We are also experiencing the ‘come-back syndrome’ where most organisations are trying to make up for the lost ground in 2020 by stretch and ambitious targets in 2021. There have been lots of coverage about organisations re-hiring, undoing salary cuts, releasing incentives etc, but there is an equal set of organisations that are going through silent restructuring. Some of these are in news, some not. Re-structuring might be the need of the hour, given new business models, new ways of doing business, but these do impact people. There have also been learnings from the previous year, that despite the challenges, the show must go on.
In all this, our leaders play a pivotal role. Leaders are uniquely positioned, where they are accountable for driving business results and priorities, while ensuring employee morale and performance. They are accountable to the board, stakeholders and to their employees and teams. They are constantly in the hot seat. Every decision and communication of theirs is open for interpretation and judged, by all- by their team, by media, by stakeholders.
Can we pause, and give a moment of thought to their emotional wellbeing, psychological safety, need for recognition and appreciation? This chapter of the pandemic, and dealing with it, was never a part of any leadership development journey, and leaders are learning on the job, and coping with the evolving challenges as they go along.
Employees and teams look up to their leaders for recognition and appreciation, for psychological safety, for clarity of communication and information. In this ambiguous and challenging environment, who do leaders look up to? The buck stops with them. Every restructuring, every tough decision requires deliberation, consideration and many a sleepless nights before the decision is taken. Many a times, it might not even be the leader’s alone, but a decision driven by the board and shareholder value. Seen as a bearer of bad news, often the blame rests at the leader’s feet. In such situations, who takes care of the leader’s morale, emotional wellbeing?
Leaders are expected to be available 24 by 7. The role demands it. The business demands it. The team’s need demands it. Be it holidays, or late nights, business goes on. A leader is expected to have solutions, answers to problems that others don’t have answers to. Have we ever appreciated our leaders for being there for us, for having our back? Teams and employees are quick to judge and feel demotivated but take a moment to reflect on the 24 by 7 leader, who also would have through a salary cut during the pandemic, who also would have experienced the insecurity around his or her job, who would have also put in long hours to ensure business continuity.
There is a lot researched and written about the impact of leadership styles on the wellbeing and morale of teams of employees and team members. There is very little research done on the wellbeing of leaders themselves. For the longest time, Leaders were expected to behave like ‘bullet proof tanks’. It is only recently that Vulnerability in Leadership has been acknowledged. Being vulnerable isn’t a bad thing and it doesn’t make you weak; it actually makes you a better leader because you stop wasting energy protecting yourself from what you think other people shouldn’t see. It allows you to start showing your authentic self.
Everyone, whether a leader, manager, team member, is first and foremost a human being, and has a need for recognition and appreciation, needs support from time to time. A lot has been spoken and written about employee wellbeing, employee experience, lets also consider Leadership wellbeing and experience this year. They after all will lead us to success, and their wellbeing cannot be compromised. It is critical for the organisation to take cognizance of how to enable them, help them build emotional resilience and psychological safety on these turbulent times. Also, if we, as team members, expect our leaders to take care of us, can we as responsible team members, take care of them?