Trust: a key word for tomorrow’s leaders

The pandemic has triggered a working revolution, undermining managerial practices that had become static over the years. Today’s leaders have emerged from this time with new questions. How can we manage this transition and save the business, without forgetting about our people’s needs?

This was just one of the questions that was discussed at the recent HRC event: New flexibility and its impact on leadership. How can we guide teams through uncertainty and which priorities will help us to adapt to change? Managers and HR directors from various companies took part in the discussion.

Once the pandemic hit, companies found themselves living through a period of forced change at work. They were searching for answers, without being able to fall back on predefined stereotypes. Recent Lifeed research shows that employees within the individual context developed self-awareness, problem solving and other skills relating to themselves. When they were working with others, they developed skills relating to team work. “On the other hand, we’ve seen that collaboration, supporting others and delegation are the skills that people develop most in their private lives”, explains Emanuela Vignotti, Chief Revenue Officer at Lifeed. “That’s because life transitions – including the pandemic – play a key part in developing people’s skills”.

The biggest thing that tomorrow’s leaders will have to face is “being flexible and continuing to facilitate people working productively in different ways. They’ll have to leverage the soft skills that they have developed in their private proprio lives”. We can’t forget that people are at the heart of business. When companies truly know their employees and value their skills, they will be more likely to be able to reach corporate objectives in the ‘new normal’.

From control to trust

Leaders walk a delicate line, now more than ever. “The main priorities are empathy, the need to listen and to build relationships based on trust. It’s about going beyond the dimension of control” says Francesca Fraulini at The Kraft Heinz Company. So what are the characteristics of a good leader? Fraulini believes they need to know how to inspire their team and create external connections.

HR managers have found themselves facing unexpected situations through the pandemic. They’ve felt the need to adapt to change as it’s happening, supported by their value systems and corporate cultures. Gianpaolo Corti at The Kraft Heinz Company says that they “need a system of soft skills through informal networks to change the traditional ‘command and control’ approach. Many companies still use this approach, but nowadays it’s no longer the most suitable leadership model”.

Change must move in line with the corporate identity too. Antonio Guarrera at Aboca underlined that tomorrow’s leaders need to have three characteristics: skills (technical preparation), virtue (be a good example) and care. Or rather serving others “because the company is like a living organism where trust is key”.

Welcoming leadership

For Stefania Capelli at Cisco, although the pandemic has been tiring, it’s also given us lots of opportunities to “evolve managerial culture”. New dimensions that have encouraged Capelli to think about an “open source” future. A future where true leaders focus on inclusion to reach their objectives. It’s a change to make space for people’s creativity and initiatives, because “trust always wins the day”.

Flexibility and trust. They’re two concepts at the heart of a new leadership style. According to Fabio Comba at KPMG, “networks are cornerstones for team leaders. We need to create conditions where people can perform but also have fun. Every investment in corporate wellbeing essentially boosts client satisfaction”.

An energetic and welcoming leadership doesn’t just enhance performance, it also helps everyone feel “part of the team, regardless of where they choose to work”. Massimiliano Sacco at Electronic Arts highlights the importance of finding balance through this hybrid phase, where some working processes are more challenging to complete entirely remotely. Leaders will have to calibrate these phases to value and strengthen teams in order to hit targets.

Relationships are increasingly important

Ugo Venier at Snam puts the focus on leaders being aware of how to manage their teams and listen. It’s “key for leadership in uncertain times, because if they listen to people and understand their needs, they’ll find everyone is more effective”.

Leadership has been put to the test over the past year. But new opportunities to change our work-life balance have emerged. Monica Chiari di Cameo highlighted how tomorrow’s leaders “unfold within change. Leaders must care more about relationships than performance. People that lead are no longer controlling the situation, but rather guiding people in the right direction and building trust”.

Transformative leadership redefines values that respond to new needs. Maurizio Audizi at Ania “because context has led us to focus on things that were previously regarded as less relevant”.

Lots of keywords emerged from the session, painting a picture of tomorrow’s leaders. Trust was a recurring theme. Trust in team behaviours, in corporate values and in building a new leadership for a better future.