Let’s Talk Leadership

To be a successful leader means having the ability to address and overcome evolving leadership challenges in an ever-changing world. Leaders are not just responsible for those they lead, but they also need to ensure that they can innovate, manage their time, delegate, and motivate those around them.

Remember the best boss you’ve ever had? What was that person like?

Your best boss likely presents qualities like active listening, integrity, and the unwavering ability to motivate and inspire others, resulting in you delivering your best work under their leadership.

As we head into a future filled with fresh challenges, new leadership issues can occur for various reasons, such as budget cuts, deadlines, and personnel changes. So, how can an excellent leader adapt and maintain a positive outlook to lead a team to success?

Leadership Challenges in the Modern World

Let’s dive into emerging global leadership challenges and how we can address them.

1. Lack of Communication

The shift to hybrid in-office/at-home work has undoubtedly changed how we work and, more importantly, how we communicate. From a company president to an employee or between co-workers, clear communication in the workplace is a crucial part of any business culture. When communication in the team collapses, engagement and work morale decrease, resulting in low-quality work, which will impact the company and its people.

Surveys have shown that 39% of employees worldwide feel they need more collaboration in the workplace. Another survey of 400 companies with 100,000 employees found that each cited an average loss per company of $62.4 million per year because of poor communication to and between employees. Imagine the losses a company could suffer by having inadequate communication!

How to address:

Communication is excellent when things are going on track, and critical when things are going downhill. A leader needs to keep everyone informed and on the same page. Ensure everyone understands the key information conveyed by scheduling quick, regular meetings for clarity.

When the team clearly and concisely grasps the brief's message without miscommunication, the response and outcome will be better than expected. Frequent communication from leaders is essential to cultivate connections, and to ensure the team progresses as a team and as individuals.

Kickstart a feedback system to encourage employees to give feedback on communication processes. By listening to employees, the valuable insights gained will help leaders optimise the results and strategise better for future issues that might arise.

2. Employee Morale

There are days when morale runs high, and there is nothing your dream team cannot accomplish with stellar results. And then, there are days when morale runs dry, work outputs and outcomes hit the skids, and motivating your team feels like drinking soup with a fork.

With dramatic changes involving the work environment, many employees face a tough time juggling personal demands and work-related stress. Employees may need help to stay engaged and upbeat about work when work and personal life merge.

How to address:

Foster an environment where your team feels safe to talk about the problems weighing them down. Start by setting up a time to talk one-to-one with team members and identify the root problem. Solutions may be suggested with consent to mitigate the issues if they are work-related. If it is personal, an employee should be encouraged to take the necessary time off to address the problem before resuming work.

In a place where workloads and tight deadlines are always running high, leaders sometimes forget to express appreciation to employees – especially when we barely meet face-to-face these days. Another way to boost employee morale is to express timely gratitude, praise, and, if possible, eligible bonuses for their achievements. It might be small, but such recognition goes a long way in raising morale, especially in large companies where most employees may often go unnoticed.

3. Workplace Conflict

Conflicts happen everywhere, but when it happens in the workplace, a simple disagreement can often escalate into an argument that interferes with the team's productivity. Conflict could stem from different personalities, working styles, time-management skills, and interaction styles. Hence, it is imperative to have strategies to help defuse the situation before it affects how people feel about themselves and others in the workplace.

How to address:

It is helpful to remember that denial, anger, and confusion are common human reactions, and it is not uncommon for these reactions to turn hostile. Cultivating healthy relationships within the team is a leader's top priority.

To ensure this, you can:

  • Encourage clear and concise communication.
  • Always be open to hearing your employees out.
  • Focus on facts rather than the person when considering both points of view.
  • Be fair and just when resolving conflict. 
  • Always follow up to track the progress of your team members.

Organising fun team-building events where employees can spend time together outside work is also important. Such events are key to boosting and recharging the team for increased productivity.

4. The Team is Not Teaming

Collaborative challenges have long been present before the pandemic. However, with hybrid and remote work as the norm now, the challenge is higher as we lose the daily human interaction we usually have in a physical office.

A team is only a team if everyone is on the same page. A harmonious team is committed to making decisions together, sharing resources, and, most importantly, supporting each other to ensure the smooth delivery of quality output. When teamwork declines, productivity and efficiency within the team, as well as the execution of duties and responsibilities that usually happens proactively, will be impacted negatively.

How to address:

The key to a dream team that creates magic is figuring out the right management approach that works best with your team.

Schedule weekly catch-ups with your team members to determine how they feel about the work they are tasked with managing. Do they feel burdened by their workload? Or, do they feel there are better uses of their skills in another area of expertise? Once you observe and understand your team members' need to stay productive, and which projects excite them the most, you can start to delegate and make adjustments.

Delegating effectively by matching team members with tasks they are best suited to by considering their strengths and weaknesses helps to improve productivity and efficiency, which, in turn, helps the company achieve its goals.

As Mattie Stepanek, an American poet and motivational speaker, once said: "Unity is strength; when there is teamwork and collaboration, wonderful things can be achieved."

5. Burnout

Issues around mental well-being are genuine and pressing challenges that can arise in any workplace. A survey by Limeade shows that 40% of employees cited burnout as the No. 1 reason they left their previous jobs.

With the massive shift towards hybrid working, blurred boundaries between home and work have made it much harder to detect signs of burnout. In a study by Monster, we see that 69% of employees working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic experienced symptoms of burnout. It is not a surprise, considering how many of us simultaneously multitask between our busy work schedules, virtual meetings, and daily household chores.

We also tend to treat issues regarding mental well-being differently than other typical workplace issues. For example, an employee might have no issues letting you know about an upset stomach that requires a trip to the clinic. But, an employee might be reluctant or uncomfortable to open up when experiencing chronic stress symptoms.

How to address:

So, what steps can leaders take to be more tuned to, and reduce, the warning signs of chronic stress and burnout in the workplace? 

The first step is to take employee workload and work-life balance seriously by prioritising mental health and removing the stigma around it. It is essential for employees to feel safe to discuss work concerns and stressors without fear of dismissal or being labelled as "weak" or "not being able to keep up".

Employees should also be encouraged to work reasonable hours and take time off to rest and recharge. Employees will appreciate this as it shows that their well-being is important and taken care of.

MBA for Modern Leaders

It is no secret anymore that managing a team is one of the most challenging aspects of being in a leadership position. The best managers know how to empower themselves and their teams. Time and again, managers face the same problem of their team members needing to pull their weight. At the end of the day, everyone just needs a little extra motivation to deliver and perform well. 

So, are you ready to lead in the modern world of work? With Sunway University Online's Master of Business Administration, build the skills you need to become a modern business leader in a remarkable landscape!

Learn the ins and outs of leadership at Sunway University Online. Schedule a 15-minute call with our Education Counsellors today to find out how to tap into the leader in you.