Navigating the next normal: a view from female leaders

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Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic one of the key issues for leaders has been to balance the urgent needs of the short-term with planning for the medium and long-term. In the second Leadership in Extraordinary Times event of 2021, hosted by Sue Dopson, Professor of Organisational Behaviour, Baroness Ruby McGregor-Smith, Former CEO, Mitie Group PLC, Dame Vivian Hunt, Senior Partner, McKinsey and Company, and Kathryn Bishop, Chair, Welsh Revenue Authority, looked both backwards and forwards to discuss the challenges and opportunities of pandemic recovery. 

Female political leaders have been admired for their responses during the pandemic. In business, too, as Vivian Hunt said, ‘Leadership that's more authentic, genuinely informed by your priorities, and has economics and empathy, which is more typical of female leadership patterns – men who have that are doing better as well – I think will be particularly relevant as we continue to navigate what will still be quite choppy waters.’ However, the panellists discussed how women have typically also taken on the lion’s share of caring responsibilities during the pandemic, and have been losing jobs in record numbers. Future leaders will need to create a fairer workplace for all of society, and that will demand:

Embracing collaboration and empathy The age of the individual heroic leader has passed; leadership is now distributed and collaborative, drawing on different perspectives, and with successful leaders listening at a deeper level to solve problems.

Supporting each other to develop resilience It is important to provide support in the workplace and design organisations to ensure that all voices are heard, particularly as we acclimatise to the complexities of hybrid working, with some people in the office and others working remotely.

Finding ways to create excitement and engagement  As we come out of the pandemic we will need to come together to ‘fight for our futures’, focusing on the opportunities that will be open to us, from responding to pent-up demand and growth to redesigning work in new ways.