Even the most recent articles on management compare this century to the one prior in demonstrating how the principles, processes, and practices of business leadership have evolved. However, Covid-19 has so pervaded the organizational zeitgeist that any student of management must look at the pandemic as a pervasive leadership game changer warranting separate yet equally impactful considerations. Concurrently leading and creating bionic companies requires blending the ideal hybrid of people and technology and doing it in unprecedented speed. This urgent mandate will require new leadership different from the ideal espoused as recently as the turn of this century.
The 20th century manager’s raison dêtre was to make money for the company and its shareholders within militaristic hierarchies of authority and a focus on short-term profits. The role of the 21st century agile manager was reconceived as prioritizing value for the customer with scalable profits as a byproduct achieved within a team-driven horizontal management structure. The post-Covid-19 leader must reimagine the future using emerging technologies to create new possibilities. She must redefine how work gets done and what gets delivered as a bionic company. It requires starting from tomorrow and working backwards, not from today forward and to lead in such way as to fail fast and scale even faster. A leader must move products quickly from beta and pilot tests to marketplace often making decisions based upon imperfect information and taking a portfolio approach based upon a few significant bets.
Defensive moat building to protect the company and reduce risk defined how the 20th century manager worked with revenue generated from inducing customers to buy and filling those orders triggered contests over resources. To the victor, the top person on the totem pole, went the greatest share as a reward for driving short-term stock prices. Personnel was tasked with controlling the workforce through compliance. The 21st century manager blew up the moats and replaced them value-creating ecosystem strategies positioned to redefine risks as opportunities and to make failure in the pursuit of competitive innovation not only acceptable but encouraged. Talent was no longer perceived as needing to be controlled but rather sought after commensurate to the value they could deliver on behalf of customers within a shared leadership environment. Share the wealth became the monetary mantra with compensation redrafted for proportionate distribution to those who delivered the greatest return on customer value. The post-Covid-19 leader must move the bionic company past zero-sum wars against competitors to recognizing and seizing opportunities for win-win scenarios forged through reciprocity. Even direct competitors can reform ecosystem relationships as partners, suppliers, and talent sources. Transforming the cultures of bionic companies will necessitate new tools for cementing desired work habits, including real-time reminders, gamification, and rapid feedback loops. The dust-gathering notion that leaders lead, managers review, and doers do must be discarded in favor of leading by doing. The post-Covid-19 leader must be directly involved with team efforts to innovate by performing hands-on roles in shaping and speeding up the change journey. She must leave the comfort zone of ways that have worked well in the past to building credibility through action and experimenting with cutting-edge technology.
Playing the role as assigned was the 20th century manager’s top priority with qualities like collaboration, respect, and diversity a sign of weakness or, worse, corporate insubordination. The single purpose behind decision making was to reduce personal risk in return for long-term salary and retirement. For the 21st century manager meaningful work meant creating a compensation value that couldn’t be measured in dollars. Pre-Covid-19 leaders say what they mean with a bias for action fueling their decisions. Collaboration, respect, and diversity are integral to their collaborative style of management and not the prior century leader’s only if necessary, last resort option. Post-Covid leaders must make the critical leap from risk aversity to enabling employees to bring their full potential to the work at hand by blending technology with the distinctly human characteristics of creativity, cooperation, and ethical business judgement.
The post-Covid-19 bionic company leader will find and build T-shaped skills, a metaphor used to describe a person with deep vertical skills in a specialized area (such as UX design) as well as broad but not necessarily very deep skills in other relevant areas (such as testing and documentation). She will need to be bilingual and adopt the language of digital technology, AI, behavioral psychology, and cognitive science to leverage expertise, bring an interdisciplinary approach to the team table, and refine strategy to incorporate new technologies. The bionic leader must bravely move through a bias for action to technologically-driven transparency by applying the trove of data to course correct more frequently, to identify broader cohorts of people to find creative solutions to tough problems, and to increase employees’ confidence that the company is making ethical, data-based decisions.
The post-Covid-19 leader has experienced the major change that the pandemic has placed upon how we do business. She is called upon today to help employees grapple with new uncertainties and adapt to significant workplace transitions. She must communicate with clarity, provide much-needed continuity, and empower the organization with a sense of purpose. The post-Covid-19 leader must be the bullhorn for why the bionic company exists and emotionally connect with employees regarding why they are well-served to align their careers with the greater purpose. It’s all about leading from the front and being authentic and visible.
Today’s post-Covid-19 leader is emerging from the pandemic with new beliefs and new behaviors forged out of crisis equipped with the ability to create bionic companies in a dramatically altered business landscape.
About Garrison Leykam, PhD:
- Certified Business Coach (Expert Level)
- Certified Remote Work Professional
- Certified Professional Career Coach (CPCC)
- Certified Professional, Résumé Writer (CPRW)
- Certified Employment Interview Professional (CEIP)
- Certified Life Coach (Expert Level)
- PhD Marketing, MA Psychology
- LinkedIn profile in Top 25 MA, PhD profiles in U.S.
- Top 1% LinkedIn Industry Social Selling Index
- Author, Audacious at Any Age and Design You