Business leaders are being warned they need to make radical changes to their management styles or risk losing a generation of achievers, as well as finding their own organisations are left behind, according to Lightbulb Leadership Solutions.
The alarm raised by Lightbulb Managing Director, Fiona McKay, comes after a poll suggested young professionals are becoming more fearful of their own futures with traditional management and outdated leadership styles also having a detrimental effect on business.
During a series of online events hosted during lockdown and since restrictions have been eased, she discussed the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on business and how it has exposed leadership practices that are stifling personal and corporate performance.
Fear of redundancy has been pinpointed as the biggest challenge impacting performance, with 50% singling it out. The number has increased from 33% at the beginning of lockdown.
Exacerbating the situation is concern around a perceived lack of trust from managers with employees suggesting lockdown one-to-ones were being used to “catch out” rather than “catch up”.
And as Britain moves to a new Covid ‘plus’ environment, Fiona has cautioned those leaders persisting with this approach. She warns that it can have a detrimental effect on employees, wider business performance, and risks alienating a generation whose careers have suffered a significant disruption at a key developmental stage.
Fiona said: “It’s the end of an era for traditional leadership and management. This obstinate focus on numbers at the expense of real human interaction has run its course. Today, leaders need to be nurturing a coaching culture, centred around quality feedback, which empowers employees to solve problems themselves.
“We are also seeing major investors basing their decisions for capital injection and acquisitions on how businesses have dealt with lockdown and whether leaders possess the modern skills to achieve high performance and growth in the future.”
As organisations seek to recover post-coronavirus, there will be much reliance on Millennials, yet Fiona has found that this generational cohort are not only becoming more fearful about the future but are becoming more selective about the organisations they work for.
She said: “Millennials are a very much socially aware generation. Studies pre-coronavirus showed that 75% of them expected their organisation to take a stand on issues surrounding climate change and their attitudes are likely to have hardened from the pandemic experience. Increasingly, they want to see alignment between colleague, customer, and community and they are leaving organisations where this is not demonstrated.
“Unless leaders make fundamental changes to how they approach social and environmental issues as well as taking care to nurture their potential properly, businesses could face a recruitment crisis.”
In monitoring the impact of lockdown, Lightbulb Leadership carried out research before and after restrictions were eased by asking global business leaders what their biggest challenges are in delivering performance across their organisations.
The results showed an equal mix. 33% of leaders prior to lockdown rated fear of redundancy, 33% Leadership and Line Management Capability, and 33% Lack of HR and L&D bandwidth to support. By July 7th, these figures had changed to 50%, 35%, and 15% respectively.
Furthermore, when participants were asked to identify the challenges they felt stood in the way of developing a sustainable and flexible performance culture, the results were:
- Working from home/flexible remote working (45%)
- Better leadership and business behaviours (30%)
- Creating a coaching culture (20%)
- New Organisation Design (5%)
Fiona added: “The fear of redundancy has understandably spiked during the pandemic. Leaders need to find ways of alleviating these fears because scared employees do not perform well. Interestingly, leadership, business behaviours and line management capability also came up.
“Businesses know that something needs to change, and the challenge now is to help them improve their leadership practice to improve performance and, along the way, alleviate the fears so many amongst the workforce are experiencing. Failure to do so will undoubtedly contribute to the real risk of a lost generation of talent.”