The qualities of resilience, empathy and communication have risen as critical characteristics employees want to see from their bosses off the back of the coronavirus pandemic, new research has revealed.
Meanwhile, strategic vision, results-orientedness, technical skills and commanding presence have slid backwards in importance.
Prior to the crisis, resilience was considered a top three leadership quality by only 13 per cent of more than 1,7000 people surveyed by the Global Alliance in Management Education (CEMS).
But this figure doubled to 34 per cent post-pandemic.
Those who considered empathy and emotional intelligence to be a top leadership quality also rose from 38 to 43 per cent.
Communication has also increased in importance, with two thirds (66 per cent) of respondents now considering this a top leadership quality, up from 64 per cent, as did cultural intelligence (27 to 28 per cent).
CEMS executive director Roland Siegers said that the new remote way of working would have implications for the way businesses collaborated and communicated.
“In the past, the traditional, leader-centred approach has been something concrete – a collection of skills that can be taught and learned,” he said.
“However this research backs up the idea that in fact, fluid human skills such as resilience, empathy, communication and cultural intelligence are key to making sure that global teams thrive during times of disruption
“Leaders must make sure that they hone their skills to help these teams based around the globe maintain high-quality, productive working relationships, despite the fact they may not be able to meet face-to-face.”
McKinsey & Co found four specific qualities – all soft skills – that make a successful business leader in a crisis.
“Awareness, vulnerability, empathy, and compassion are critical for business leaders to care for people in crisis and set the stage for business recovery,” according to an article by Mckinsey & Co. partners Gemma D’Auria, Nicolai Chen Nielsen, and Sasha Zolley.
Researchers from the Oregon Health & Science University found that during a time of extreme stress, an empathetic approach from leaders was called for.
“This is not a time for the ‘tough love’ approach to management to get a team functioning well again,” wrote professor Leslie Hammer and senior research associate Lindsey Allen in a piece for The Conversation.
“For most employees, social support and understanding are key ingredients to helping alleviate stress and adjust work-life expectations.
“This can be done using two evidence-based methods of effective leadership: emotional support and role modeling.”
According to research from Deloitte France, there are five “fundamental qualities of resilient leadership” that distinguish between successful and unsuccessful CEOs.
“Resilient leaders are genuinely, sincerely empathetic, walking compassionately in the shoes of employees, customers, and their broader ecosystems,” stated a Deloitte Insights paper.
Resilient leaders are also able to bring stabilisation to their organisation when confronting a crisis, as well as make decisive action under pressure with imperfect information.
These leaders can also “own the narrative” by being transparent about the situation at hand while framing a vision for the future.
Leaders who are resilient also take a long term view while at the same time seizing on opportunities and innovations that present themselves.
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