Global Leadership in a Virtual World – Part I

Global business leadership has been in crisis, brought on by COVID-19, working from home, and increased unemployment. But leadership is not always about the leader,  it’s sometimes about the followers. The best leaders can inspire their employees to give their all while encouraging them to be responsible for themselves and others around them. With a strong foundation of trust, cooperation, and camaraderie, an organization will thrive under capable leadership no matter where they are located or what challenges they are facing.

Impact on Leadership: Unemployment

In 2019, unemployment in the US was 3.5% until WHO declared the COVID-19 pandemic on March 11th, 2020. Unemployment skyrocketed to  14.8% in April 2020, the highest ever recorded, and 2020 finished with an average of 6.7% unemployment. These startling figures place tremendous strain on global organizations and their leadership teams. According to the Global Leadership Forecast report, only 11% of surveyed organizations reported a “strong” or “very strong” leadership team leadership bench, the lowest in 10 years.

Economist Maximiliano Dvorkin noted that the industries affected the hardest by unemployment are in direct contact with customers or clients. Leaders in heavily affected industries like hospitality were required to give workers things like wages, flexibility, and career advancement opportunities similar to remote jobs or risk losing them. This caused leaders in several affected industries to reevaluate the desires and needs of their hourly workforce to adapt as a business. In contrast, the financial activities sector saw relatively small declines in employment compared to other industries.

This strain in leadership is not only caused by unemployment. the way leaders handle the situation and treat their employees plays a role. With multiple industries becoming a workers market, leaders must make their place of employment attractive to workers, especially if they are an in-person business. The pandemic has led to an increase in working from home for many companies, leaving global leadership teams scrambling to maintain operations and thrive in this time.

Impact on Leadership: Remote Teams

Leadership styles are changing, especially with about 18% of people working remote full-time jobs and about 16% of companies exclusively hiring full-time remote workers. While many are ecstatic to be working from home, Gallup revealed that employee engagement from leaders is what drives workersto go that extra mile. This calls for a more hands-on leadership approach to the traditional in-person work teams. 

Industry leaders need to make sure remote employees understand what is expected of them. Managers and supervisors have to stay connected through various means like phone calls, video conferencing, virtual meetings, virtual workgroups and emails. Leaders will need to give employees the tools they require to work effectively which means vetting the right virtual tools for maximum efficiency.