While these core qualities have withstood the test of time, it is also true that different times call for additional skills. So what does effective leadership look like in times of COVID-19? What new qualities should the C-suite embrace to navigate a world spinning off its axis?
IESE professors and other thought leaders have looked at what characteristics – some classics and others newer – an ideal CEO needs in 2021.
10 skills top leadership need
1. Strong, inclusive and inspiring
Capable of motivating, inspiring and aligning the entire team behind a shared goal. Crucial to this is emotional intelligence (EQ), which has two sides to it: first, the ability to recognize, understand and effectively manage one’s own emotional state, and second, the capacity to engage empathetically with others and appreciate their emotional states. Leaving this textbook definition aside, the maxim “People join companies; people leave bosses” perhaps best captures the essence of EQ.
While often deemed a “soft skill” – and as such, less critical than technical proficiency and bottom-line results – EQ is critical for leaders who aspire to unite, motivate and align others. And in today’s COVID19 world, it has never been more crucial.
2. A strategic vision
For the medium-long term, balancing prudence and practicality.
3. Flexible and able to manage change
With COVID-19 and its aftermath, staying put in a comfort zone is no longer an option.
4. Principled and able to lead by example
Solidarity, closeness, humility, optimism and courage are values that have gained traction in society and in companies.
The ambiguity unleashed by the pandemic has made it glaringly obvious that no one has all the answers, highlighting the need for humility and a willingness to listen to dissident voices. It’s also important to define humility as a concept since some mistake it for passivity or submissiveness, according to Edward D. Hess, a professor at UVA-Darden. “Rather, it’s the ability to tame one’s ego and connect with others creatively. […] This is the gateway to an open mind, partly because it allows you to process new information without reacting fearfully or defensively,” Hess says.
IESE Prof. Sebastian Reiche agrees: “Research supports the positive notion of humility, linking it to inquisitiveness and openness towards learning and being taught by others.”