It was 12 months ago this week that we signed up for a Zoom account and started to work out how to ensure the sustainability of our business when the emerging pandemic had run its course. One element of our plan was to share our thinking and our experience with clients and colleagues by writing a regular ‘Leadership in Lockdown’ blog.

A year on is a good time to reflect on the need for all of us to make sense of the experience that we have all gone through. 12 months ago, we were all focussed on survival as we learned how to use Zoom and Teams, and to transact our business. People coped, remarkably well in many cases given the range of home and family pressures they were under. Leaders changed their routines and their working wardrobe, found new ways to communicate and often discovered that they were able to share more of their lives and get to know their colleagues more deeply – all through a screen.

As the months passed and we all rode the roller-coaster of firebreaks and regional restrictions, the impact on personal and collective behaviour has grown. The things that ‘teams don’t talk about on Teams’ have become more obvious, individuals have reassessed their personal priorities, and new norms of balancing home and work life have been set. We may now have a roadmap for unlocking the economy, but for leaders this raises as many questions as it answers. From 21st June, leaders will have to work out what is the best way to manage hopes, fears and expectations of their teams as they negotiate the steps that will take them back into an office-based working environment again.

In March 2020 we wrote our first Leadership in Lockdown blog and highlighted 5 areas for leaders to consider:

  • How do you look?
  • What do you say?
  • How do I lead my team?
  • How do I influence stakeholders?
  • How do I measure my own and my team’s performance?

The advice we gave then was simple, practical, and with the benefit of hindsight looks rather naïve. As we think about the leadership challenges ahead for us all, these 5 areas are as relevant as ever. However their application now is not coping with lockdown, but rather facing the challenges and opportunities of unlocking the potential of your team, and perhaps unlocking new aspirations for your own leadership. The weeks ahead are going to require analysis, creativity, empathy, and collaboration as the entry into lockdown did 12 months ago. We plan to write a fortnightly blog that will take each of these areas and re-interpret them for 2021. To reflect this change, we’re calling this series ‘Unlocking Leadership’.

The first edition will focus on the first of the 5 questions – How do you look? Do you change back into your old business suit and tie, or do you go into the office sporting the new lockdown hairstyle and the more casual look your team have got used to seeing you in on Zoom? But more fundamentally how do you want your colleagues to see the experience of the last 12 months reflected in you as a leader? To what extent do you want to paint a picture of an organisation that is ‘getting back to normal’ or do you want to emphasise what has changed, what you have learned, and what new opportunities that might bring? We’ll be discussing these and similar topics in the next edition of this Unlocking Leadership blog and we look forward to your feedback and contribution to the debate.