How to be a reviver: Five lessons for the C-Suite towards positively different leadership
PA Consulting’s latest leadership report, A New Way to Lead, shares five strategies that can help organisations and their people thrive
Two in three leaders say they urgently need to refine their leadership approach as workforces look to them to lead the way post-COVID-19, according to new report findings from PA Consulting (PA), the consultancy that’s bringing ingenuity to life.
The report, A New Way to Lead, identifies what ingenious leadership looks like, and shows that there are concrete ways of leading that make a tangible difference to the health and happiness of an organisation, and wider society. However leaders who do not put these behaviours into practice risk becoming irrelevant and ineffective.
To better understand the behaviours driving leadership, PA surveyed over 300 business leaders from across the US, UK, and Europe, and developed a snapshot of the issues leaders are facing. The data highlights a worrying split between revivers and survivors:
- over half of the respondents (56%) identified as ‘revivers’ – leaders focused on continued acceleration, transformation, and investment in growth and innovation. Most revivers originated from the UK and are leaders of tomorrow (those at Director/Head Of level (64%)). Revivers tended to come from the Financial Services (73%), or Consumer, Retail and Manufacturing sectors (63%).
- inversely, 44% of respondents identified as ‘survivors’ – those focused on cost reduction and sustaining pace of change – were likelier to originate from the Nordics or Netherlands (51% and 52%, respectively), or to be C-level leaders (51%). Survivors tended to come from the Government & Public Sector (63%) and Defence & Security sectors (60%).
Leaders focused on survival risk being left behind. Here’s how to be a reviver
The report highlights five key steps that can transform leadership behaviour:
- Work in the growth zone. All employees need an element of carefully crafted tension to make progress. Great leaders will find ways to break down silos and rethink timelines, guiding their team towards opportunities for individual and collective progression.
- Cultivate kindness. Kindness is the most direct way to empower teams to try new things, to take risks, and to do so safe in the knowledge that they won’t be targeted as a result. This is where people feel able to try new things and do their best work. Respondents were almost twice as likely to report that their company was performing well financially when leaders were kind. If you’re looking to engage employees, kindness is one of the easiest ways to make a major impact.
- Catalyse your internal disruptors. C-suite leaders are often charged with keeping things on track in the short-term. By giving more share of voice to disruptors, boards can broaden perspectives, and support bold and brave leadership at all levels of the organisation. CEOs that are willing to try new things, take risks, and be agile can inspire their whole organisation.
- Make authenticity everything. Organisations and their leaders can no longer hide from important societal issues, be it inclusion and diversity, the living wage or equitable supply chains. Almost four in five leaders say employees, customers and investors are increasingly looking for them to demonstrate behaviours that drive wider social value. This means living up to the purpose you espouse, even when the going gets tough. Leaders need to have a clear purpose and a grand vision to move their companies in the right direction.
- Find the in-between places where innovation and collaboration thrive. For many leaders, the past few years have wiped out some of the in-between spaces where innovation flourishes. On a literal level, there’s a lot less time spent commuting where a random thought might crop up. For teams, the informal chats before and after meetings don’t exist online in the same way. Leaders need to model what it means to live in the unknown, to make the best choices possible with the information available, to actively seek out the in-between spaces, moments and approaches that call for something new.
Rachael Brassey, Global Lead for People & Change at PA Consulting, says: “Leadership is relevant to everyone, regardless of seniority or rank. Leaders who stepped up during the COVID-19 pandemic were able to inspire a new-found resilience and responsiveness in their teams. The leadership that today and tomorrow demands calls for a subtle shift, and leaders need to nurture optimism, empower teams, build an evolving organisation, and seek inspiration in surprising places to carve out a competitive advantage.”
Charlene Li, Chief Research Officer at PA Consulting, adds: “As companies move out of the pandemic, they need to decide if they want to be a survivor or a reviver. Now is the time to reexamine leadership styles and prepare for the road ahead. The key action every leader should take is to step out of the comfort zone and into the growth zone to stretch, but not stress, themselves and the team.”
PA surveyed leaders across the US, UK, Nordics and the Netherlands – speaking to more than 300 leaders about their leadership challenges and the traits and methods they employ to seize new opportunities. Half of these leaders were at the C-Suite level (leaders of today), the other half were directors or heads of department (leaders of tomorrow).