Understanding Leadership

1 March 2023

Understanding Leadership in the post-pandemic era is a new challenge for senior executives. 

We see policies becoming increasingly important as things like “work-life-balance” take on new meaning. In the post-pandemic era, companies must grapple with different policies necessary to drive behavior. Work policies (e.g., all remote, hybrid remote/on-site, four-day work week) will vary by industry, economic conditions, geography, products or services offered, etc.

As we look to the ever-evolving workplace, we see where leadership style has meaning and much of that “style” will impact how companies fair post-COVID. The manner in which executives lead through this change will impact how their businesses operate moving forward.

Some considerations:

Apple CEO Tim Cook suggested in June of 2022 that the shift to more remote work is the "mother of all experiments”. During the outset of the pandemic, Mr Cook suggested he was impressed employee’s ability to work remotely. His style was inclusive and allowed for experimentation and an evolving approach, but he often suggested a move back to in-office model. In April of 2022, Apple policy set out to drive a hybrid workplace suggesting a three-day-a-week in office policy.

Siemens was way ahead of the curve – in June of 2020 (6 months into the pandemic), Siemens established policies that supported “mobile working as core component of the new normal”.  Interesting note in the press release suggesting the “model based on transformation of leadership and corporate culture”. This leadership initiative set aside the uncertainty of remote work and recognized the change of corporate culture.

Elon Musk was faced with two different businesses with very different requirements (and ability) to work remote. His message to Tesla was direct – “if you don’t show up for work we’ll assume you resigned”. In January of this year, Musk sent a different message to his Twitter organization suggesting remote work made sense. Mr. Musk knew he had to adapt to each business circumstance, and he delivered forceful policies to support his position.

CEO of Starbucks Howard Schultz offered his policy to reinvigorate “collaboration and camaraderie”. While Mr. Schultz openly states he’s annoyed with the fact that employees are not returning to the corporate office, he is aware of the larger social shift and is willing to build policy to support the growth of the business. Starbucks issued a policy that enabled the workforce to participate in the hybrid work model decision.

There’s one theme that we hear consistently in this post-pandemic era – the workforce is changing and it's increasingly important for leaders to listen more carefully to this shift in social behavior. Well thought out strategies and related policies may lead to increased employee productivity, retention, and longevity. It also impacts ability to recruit employees to the business.


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