Six days before the world shockingly and unexpectedly shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I was enjoying a lovely breakfast with a young woman named Chelsea. We had met the day prior at a conference where I had been engaged to speak to a group of leaders in the financial sector. As soon as I walked off the stage, Chelsea and I struck up a fascinating conversation about real-time leadership. It was clear that we could have talked all afternoon, but because Chelsea had to return to work, she suggested that we continue our chat the following morning over a meal before I left for the airport.
Our encounter and her story about her current job left an indelible impact. I could not stop thinking about it during the five-hour plane ride back home. Her meteoric rise from financial advisor to senior team leader servicing her firm’s biggest client was being thwarted by her misogynistic, more tenured male counterparts who were unable to accept her as their equal. Her employer’s reputation as a sought-after place to work was in jeopardy, although the higher-ups had no knowledge of the put-downs, displays of jealousy, sexism, and other shenanigans taking place within their own walls.
Chelsea was about to walk. With her position at work, she had the clout and courage to take one of her employers’ biggest clients with her…straight to her employers’ major competitor.
Why should Chelsea’s experience matter to you? Simply put, her story likely resembles a scenario playing out in your workplace right now. Whether it is a lack of gender or cultural diversity, a massive generational shift or the rise of your employees’ voices speaking up on a host of social and economic issues, you need to pay close attention to the new realities. In order to meet the expectations of a savvy workforce and customer base, here are three facts to keep in mind.
1. Losing talent has ramifications, both internally and externally
No organization can afford to lose great people. In addition to the significant time and monetary cost of replacing talent, the impact on morale and your clientele can result in dire consequences. While you cannot control an individual’s decision to stay or leave, how you decide to treat your employees and serve your clientele in a fast-paced digital age is 100% within your control. Your workforce and your customers want to be associated with forward thinking organizations that are prepared to meet their needs in the now.
2. Leaders cannot lead in a time warp
The world is still reeling from the economic effects of COVID-19, as well as adjusting to the values shift that comes with generational transition and a never-ending digital transformation. Whether you’re a CEO, entrepreneur, or executive team leader, your leadership responsibilities will continue to evolve alongside your employees. This requires an honest appraisal of your leaders’ collective capacity to be open and flexible, devoid of biases that ultimately reflect poorly on your business.
3. Transformation has no end date
Real-time leaders will always need to find ways to transform themselves as well as their organizations against a backdrop of ongoing change. As workplaces continue to undergo radical transformation, the most effective leaders recognize that their businesses benefit exponentially when divergent ideas are encouraged rather than stifled, ready to recalibrate and reinvent without hesitation. Most importantly, they are willing to invest in leaders who possess the skills to drive transformation from the top,
You can never diminish the influence and impact of great leadership throughout history. Outstanding leaders who inspire, motivate, flex, connect, collaborate, and remain open-minded are invaluable in the eyes of their workforces and key stakeholders. Current and future leaders who are keenly aware of their leadership responsibilities as well as business and economic realities have the mindset to keep themselves and their enterprises ready, responsive, and relevant for years. These leaders personify the traits of real-time leadership in action.
Author: Michelle Ray. This article first appeared in Smart Brief
Michelle Ray, CEO & Founder of Lead Yourself First Enterprises, is also a renowned international leadership keynote speaker and author of two books. Her latest, Leading In Real Time: How to Drive Success in a Radically Changing World was released in September, 2021.