Shaping leadership in the new normal

There is much debate and many unanswered questions on the ‘new normal’ that will emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic and crisis. These include questions on the impact of COVID on work, the workforce, and the workplace; the transformation of these post-COVID; and the required people practices in the post-COVID future. As with other emergent phenomena such as the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) and disruptions, the new normal is complex and unclear. It is perplexing as it is difficult to discern clear contours and patterns of the new normal and what are the appropriate good practices and responses. This includes good practices in relation to leadership. It poses the question to organisations, what is leading in the new normal.

HR’s role is to facilitate this question with both internal and external stakeholders, and help shape organisational leadership in the new normal. This facilitation can be structured along three questions, as illustrated in the table below. HR needs to understand the questions being asked and identify those that are not being asked (this links to the development of a speak up culture). Here, it is important to surface and engage with the assumptions on leadership and the new normal. This will aid the development of a more coherent leadership philosophy, agenda, strategy, culture and development interventions; and develop good practice in the emergent new realities of organisations.

What questions are being asked on leading in the new normal?Map the stakeholders, their questions, and the levels of analysis the question can be located at (see the table on theoretical perspectives)
What are the assumptions on leadership?Map the stakeholders’ perspective and assumptions
What are the assumptions on the new normal?Map the contours and patterns of the new normal that emerge from facilitating conversations with stakeholders on the emergent realities. The Cynefin framework, VUCA framework, and CCL’s RUPT framework can be useful
Three key questions

The below template can be used as a guide to facilitate the conversations and map the stakeholders, their questions, the levels in which their questions can be located. The conversations will usually focus on leadership inputs and processes, with some of the more urgent outcomes. The right column on leadership can help explore the unasked questions or silences in the conversations. This can help probe assumptions. The following template can be useful for this.

Template for stakeholders, questions and outcomes

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