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COVID-19 has caused a shift in leadership skills

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Harder skills deemed important to leaders before the pandemic are no longer significant, according to a new report from The Global Alliance in Management Education (CEMS).

The CEMS Leadership in a Post-Covid-19 World report found that COVID-19 had led to a shift in the way business managers think about leadership.

Where hard skills, e.g. programming skills, language knowledge, software proficiency, were once prized, now softer, more humane attributes and competencies have gained greater value in the wake of the crisis.

The most notable changes are a clear increase in the importance attached to resilience and empathy and a sharp drop in how valuable technical skills and authority is.

Pre-COVID, strategic vision was ranked by 74% of respondents as being within their top three leadership qualities. Following the outbreak, it was only ranked by 64%.

Resilience rose to 34%, following a pre-COVID ranking of 13%.

Speaking to HR magazine, Audrey Clegg, group talent director at Coca-Cola Hellenic and a member of the CEMS alliance, said one immediate result of COVID-19 was an increased focus on ‘human’ leadership - the skills that help to support and energise teams.

“At Coca-Cola, we’ve seen a move away from ‘corporate speak’ to a more authentic style of leadership – more of us sharing personal stories with our teams, for example,” she said.

“To be effective leaders, we need to be real people, not superheroes: we face similar issues to the people we serve, we have the same ups and downs.”


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Clegg explained that similar to previous crises, coronavirus had proved that showing vulnerability and sharing tough times can make leaders more effective.

“The best leaders I’ve personally worked with are in equal parts empathetic, reflective and demanding,” she said.

CEMS’s research also found that a quarter of respondents believed these changes to leadership skills will be permanent.

The report recommended that teams learn to become more tolerant of failure and reframe it as learning.

It also recommended that leaders encourage an entrepreneurial mindset in others, to empower their people to experiment, try new approaches, build new skills and accept responsibility without blame.