As lockdown eases, Roger Trapp at Forbes looks at the challenges of virtual leadership – with comments from Cirrus CEO Dr Simon Hayward.

Governments around the world are starting to lift their lockdowns at varying speeds. The fact that there will not be return to the old ways of doing things any time soon, if at all, means that there will be still be a great deal of uncertainty and confusion. And businesses in some sectors — notably travel and hospitality — will have to go through fundamental changes in order to survive.

Even workers in activities that have not been adversely affected by the virus are changing the ways in which they work — in part in order to meet social-distancing requirements, but also because they have, as it were, seen the future and it is agile. Indeed, the pandemic has been like a crash course in going digital for many organisations and often they have found that, after a period of adjustment, there have been benefits to the new way of working.

Not all enterprises have embraced the changes. Simon Hayward, founder and chief executive of Cirrus, a UK-based leadership and management development consultancy, said in an interview that there are differences even within sectors. Some are seeing the crisis as an opportunity to “shake up the old hierarchy and management mindset” while others are seeing it in terms of “we just need to get through this.” While those in the former group are settling down quite quickly, those in the latter are “almost fire-fighting” and in a situation that is neither healthy nor sustainable, he suggests.

Whichever camp their organisations are in, managers will have to adapt.

In particular, leaders should not take remote working as an opportunity to provide less leadership. Instead, successful virtual leaders will be agile role models for their teams, proactive in addressing uncertainty and providing clear direction. Quite a job description for the times.

© Forbes 2020.

Read this article in full on the Forbes website.

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