What did 2020 teach us about leadership?

2020 is a year we won’t quickly forget. It brought hardship to many people and profoundly affected the way that many of us live and work. But Gerard Daniels also saw many businesses thrive – guided by leaders who embraced new ways of working, led with empathy and positivity, found new ways to get the job done and boldly stepped up to meet new and often unprecedented challenges.
2020 Leadership Image Gerard Daniels

Here we explore some of the lessons we’ve learned from these exceptional leaders and consider how 2020 transformed leadership for the better.

Rising to the challenge

2020 was undoubtedly a difficult year, with some of the toughest trading conditions that many businesses have experienced. But experience tells us that adversity can bring opportunity, too. Despite its many challenges Lloyd Smith, a Director at Gerard Daniels, believes that the events of 2020 allowed some business leaders to shine.

In the past year Gerard Daniels has witnessed countless examples of exemplary leadership in business, politics and in all aspects of society. “We’ve seen genuine compassion from leaders, honest and open communication, and more transparent, positive and proactive engagement,” says Lloyd.

Not only are these examples inspiring for other businesses and leaders around the world, they also remind us of what good leadership can help us to achieve.

Embracing new ways of working

For many business leaders, embracing new levels of trust, autonomy and flexibility within the workforce has been an important aspect of ensuring business sustainability in 2020. Leaders have been forced to support people working in entirely differently ways, and for most businesses this has been a positive experience.

“Remote working is no longer feared by leadership,” says Lloyd. “It took a pandemic to force this change but exposing leaders to different ways of working has removed the mystery and alleviated some of the concerns that leaders may previously have held.”

Lloyd also believes that mandatory remote working has pushed the flexible work agenda forward and challenged views around presenteeism versus output. “2020 has allowed many businesses to experience productivity gains and better employee morale, in spite of or perhaps because of these new ways of working – which is a great outcome,” he says.

Empathy in leadership

Through 2020 many leaders may now more fully understand the importance of EQ over IQ. As we emerge from this extraordinary year, many leaders have also come to recognise care and empathy as critical characteristics for effective leadership.

“Although leaders need to take tough decisions and face considerable stress on a daily basis, leadership during a fast-moving crisis requires empathy,” says Lloyd. “Regardless of other pressures we still need to lead people and engage with them in positive and empathetic ways.”

“We are business leaders but we are people too,” Lloyd continues. “2020 has reminded us that to be good leaders and corporate citizens we must be able to relate to the challenges that others in our workforce and our community are experiencing.”

Reconnecting with company values

“2020 has given leaders an opportunity to live their organisational values and the chance to put these values into practice,” says Lloyd. “It has reminded us that our values are more than just words. Values are now being applied and aspired to in ways that we can admire.”

For Lloyd this connection to company values also reinforces the need for a multi-dimensional approach to leadership. “Aligning our business and financial goals with our culture and what we value as an organisation has been essential in surviving and moving forward during a period like this,” Lloyd concludes.

2020 has shaped businesses and leadership in many ways. How did this year affect you? Did it shape your leadership style in any way? Share your stories with us here.

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