How has the rapid adoption of technology impacted our ability to lead?

GUEST OPINION: In the last few years, there have been major shifts in the way we work as business models adjusted and pivoted to the global pandemic. The ongoing trend for digitization and technology uptake in businesses, according to some experts, brought the predicted adoption of these processes forward by four years.

For the most part, the rapid adoption of technology has occurred successfully across many industries, particularly for connectivity. While traditional leadership styles and strategies have been evolving over the past decade, leaders are now faced with an accelerated need to ‘catch up’ to the technology that has already transformed their organization’s landscape.

So, What’s The Current Problem with Leadership?

Technology in theory has taken a lot of the heavy lifting away from management, so leaders need to evolve and get more involved with the human element of the business.

We’ve taken so many years to develop our leadership capabilities and skills, but the new normal requires us to ‘unlearn’ some of those habits and thought processes that our brains instinctively cling to.

Positional power doesn’t fit this mold anymore. In the new post-pandemic, tech-driven business models, failing to connect with, listen to and converse with your teams will put any ‘leader’ at a distinct disadvantage when attempting to set strategic milestones and goals, let alone inspire buy-in for the overall vision.

When we recognize how the trending hybrid work / life environment poses challenges for engagement, accountability and the development of initiatives, we can accept that new solutions need to be explored. Sure, digital tools have something to offer formally regarding engagement and accountability – such as project management tools – but you can’t inspire initiatives and encourage development and innovation if you aren’t connecting with your team.

Adopting an inclusivity attitude will benefit leaders in their quest to reprogram their own skills and mindsets for success. It’s time to adopt flexibility to the word ‘leadership’, as new models become more collaborative.

The New Leadership Followership in the Tech Sector

Modern leaders need to foster a culture of ‘followership’, where they inspire their teams to engage in feedback, comment and get involved at a deeper level.

The styles in which employees now engage in their roles are blurring the lines between our professional and personal space, and we are no longer ‘checking our souls’ at the door. Technology affords us the opportunity to observe things about each other, whether that be spotting a Beatles poster on someone’s wall in a virtual meeting or seeing their dog playing in the background.

One-on-one situations present an ideal way to check-in and support individuals psychologically as well as professionally; engaging in critical conversation surrounding professional issues and in some cases personal ones that may impact job performance.

We’ve had success using Microsoft Teams to make inroads in creating psychological, safe environments by ‘practicing gratitude’ sessions in our meetings together. Another organization I spoke with about followership, explained how they use Miro for a type of visual moderation. They facilitate virtual brainstorming sessions, where employees anonymously throw around ideas to identify solutions for issues.

Google Translate, amazing technology, is only the beginning to breaking down our communication barriers for global business, and within our own multicultural and multilingual business landscapes. I’m waiting in fascination for the new technology that is Google Hologram, and what it can offer us in relation to connectivity.

When leaders adapt their own style to get involved and communicate authentic, honest thoughts and feedback, employees become invested as followers, and the immense power of the majority is recognized. They will take initiative themselves to step up, offer their own unique opinions and solutions, and feel invested in their long-term position.

Leading into the Future.

Taking a holistic approach to leadership and equally, followership offers the opportunity to adapt to technology that can assist us in the personal and professional development of ourselves and our team. I believe the followership model can counteract the disconnect that’s occurred for many organizations as a result of the pandemic.

You can’t have leadership without creating partnerships. Leaders need to adopt an active and motivated attitude for building self-confidence and growth in their teams for ongoing business success and continuous improvement.

About Natalie Nicholson

Natalie Nicholson is a dynamic and innovative visionary with over 20 years of experience in national and international HR and strategic commercial roles, spanning Learning & Development roles for major financial institutions, to Chief HR Officer at an ASX-listed investment management firm, to her current role as Chief People & Corporate Affairs Officer for an international diversified financial services group.

Natalie is passionate about partnering with leadership teams to transform vision to realization; be it strategy, long term HR solutions or commercially astute people solutions.


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