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BW Businessworld

Need To Develop New Leadership Competencies

The curriculum would need to concentrate on building leadership competencies and attitudes such as the ones described above in addition to developing conventional management skills.

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Scientists may not be very far from finding a vaccine for the coronavirus that has caused an extraordinary human tragedy across the world and decimated the global economy. However, there is broad agreement that the world will be transformed in fundamental ways for years to come even if a vaccine is found relatively soon. Likely, there would be unpredictability around public health in general over the next few years, if not longer, and that is bound to drive long-term behavioural changes in society. 

New pedigree of leaders

A precautionary mindset will develop in individuals that will lead to continued physical distancing, resulting in the increased adoption of remote working and a shift in attitudes towards travel, dining out, shopping and attending large-scale public events. Urban mobility and delivery of services such as education and healthcare will witness a radical change. This metamorphosis of the social landscape will necessarily set in motion a swift evolution of the business landscape, which will require a new pedigree of business leaders. 

Many of the technology driven changes forecast before Covid-19 will see an acceleration and what was predicted to become mainstream five years from today will probably take place in the next one to two years. Online education and telemedicine are obvious examples. Existing business models will become obsolete and a host of new opportunities will emerge.

No playbook for guidance

In an unprecedented crisis such as this, where there was no existing playbook to guide leaders, probably the only solution was to adopt agile, iterative problem-solving methods. The horizon of financial forecasting had to be reduced to days, weeks and months from the usual timeframe of years. 

The focus needed to shift from long-term value creation to dealing with the crisis at hand, but at the same time business leaders had to try and ensure that no permanent damage was inflicted on their businesses. In such an environment of hyper-change, business leaders will need to develop a completely new set of competencies as outlined below:  

Agility — The ability to make quick and bold decisions under uncertainty and treat every action as an experiment. One needs to be able to learn fast from failure and continuously iterate. 

Resilience — Being able to respond to unexpected challenges and at the same time maintain the stability of one’s organisation. Harvard Business School Professor Nancy Koehn describes resilience as, “The capacity to not only endure great challenges, but get stronger in the midst of them.” She adds, “This is such an extraordinarily important capability because we live in a world that’s one nonstop crisis—one calamity, one emergency, one unexpected, often difficult surprise—after another, like waves breaking on the shore.” 

Digital Mindset — Capability to effectively use digital tools, create a digital culture and manage relationships in a digital context. To have the wherewithal to exploit data using AI to generate real time business intelligence as an input into strategy making. 

Ability to build a culture of Collaboration and Trust — With organisations becoming more distributed across a wide geographical area it would become critical for leaders to be able to create an environment of trust where people feel comfortable to collaborate with each other despite not meeting physically and produce effective outcomes.  

Building competencies 

The future success of business schools will depend a great deal on how effective they are in equipping business leaders to deal with the crisis. This would require the pedagogy itself to change, to focus heavily on experiential learning in the physical world and rely on online modes for traditional classroom instruction. 

The curriculum would need to concentrate on building leadership competencies and attitudes such as the ones described above in addition to developing conventional management skills.

The rapid digitisation of education is threatening the traditional business model of management education and business schools themselves need to display a great deal of agility, resilience and a digital mindset to survive this very real threat. 

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.


Dhruv Agarwala

Agarwala is CEO and Founder of PropTiger

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