The definition of leadership, and what the role is meant to be, has been in flux ever since the pandemic. With the drastically-altered business landscape, not only has there been a shift of organisational priorities from work to employees, but the role of leaders has also changed significantly.
A new group of people, whose efforts to bring a sense of stability and safety to their organisations during and after the Covid-19 outbreak, has been observed throughout the world, is now being referred to by a new name that defines them succinctly — consequential leaders.
These leaders, from Google CEO Sundar Pichai — who donated $800 million to NGOs, small businesses and healthcare workers — to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella — who approved WFH even before the government mandates —have a lot in common with each other.
Consequential leaders never go by the books. Instead, they make their own rules and step away from the well-trodden path to create better solutions for organisational problems. They’re not afraid to try new things and learn from their mistakes. Not only can they adapt themselves to difficult situations, but they can make others feel safe as well.
They thrive in chaotic situations that provide them with the thrill of danger or risks and at the same time present an opportunity to come up with ways to tackle complex situations.
It isn’t enough to be a hard-working and caring leader; which is what most leaders try to be. Consequential leaders are those who take initiative and drive overall change. Apart from the usual traits that characterise them, consequential leaders have an extra edge that sets them apart.
Pankaj Lochan, CHRO, Jindal Steel and Power, states three major characteristics that can be identified in all consequential leaders.
1. They treat every threat as an opportunity: When many people see problems at the workplace as just a threat or a cause for disruption, consequential leaders see an opportunity to turn things around in favour of the organisation. A problem becomes dangerous when leaders don’t know how to respond to them. Only a few can offer creative solutions to resolve them. Consequential leaders see doors where other people see walls.
2. They confidently lead the way: Consequential leaders don’t impose their own agenda on people. Instead, they lead them to achieve goals by showing them how to work towards them. By encouraging and supporting people, the leaders enable others to succeed in their tasks at a quicker pace.
3. They are focused on developing a deeper sense of purpose: Big changes happen when people in organisations are dedicated toward a common cause. People who are able to foster a sense of purpose in those around them, and help them stay on the right path throughout their journey are the strongest leaders of consequence.
Consequential leaders are less likely to focus on the business and profit, and more on the welfare of the employees and other people.
Anurag Verma, vice president – human resources, Uniphore, says, “Consequential leaders, who lead with their hearts and not their minds, are usually the most successful in difficult situations. They are capable of making connections with people in stressful times and provide them the necessary flexibility to sort out their problems before coming back to work”.
As Verma points out, the pandemic also proved to be an agent of change for many people, who had to act in different ways because of the drastic situations and acquire skills needed to be leaders in their organisations. As a result, they came out stronger and wiser, with the knowledge and wisdom required for the good of others.
One of the most important qualities that has shown a rise in leaders, especially during and post pandemic, is their ability to connect and understand people’s feelings.
Ravi Kumar, senior leader, people and culture, Roche Diabetes Care Global Commercial Organisation, says, “One of the factors that differentiates consequential leaders from others is that they are highly empathetic.”
They are able to relate with people’s problems by putting themselves in their shoes, and this quality makes them react more effectively to crises.
Secondly, they are able to serve as a catalyst for change and bring people together, he says. CEOs and leaders who helped people, not necessarily from their own organisations, get oxygen cylinders during the pandemic, and ensured hospitalisations for others were clearly driven by their genuine concern for others. They wanted to use their privilege and power to help those in need.
Consequential leaders want to make the world a better place, and wish to achieve their goals by serving everyone who needs their help. They have broken the barriers that were in place before the pandemic, and stepped in to treat everyone with empathy and equality. It is only through such selfless acts and efforts that the world can progress toward a better future, where the humane quality of people will be more important than how much work they can offer to their organisations.