Change leadership in a post-pandemic world

Campbell Macpherson from the executive education department at Henley Business School explores people’s capacity to change and why treating everyone as individuals is the way forward

If we’ve learned anything from the pandemic, it’s that we have an enormous capacity to change. Business leaders thinking has changed seismically and we’ve embraced these three important principles:

  • We are fundamentally able to change, quickly, and in various ways;
  • Emotions are at the heart of our propensity to change;
  • Change is not a project. It is constant.

The coronavirus change paradox

The pandemic has accelerated the evolution of many industries. They’ve innovated, pivoted and demonstrated agility.

Others put everything on ice, waiting to return to the ‘new normal’. But the world has changed forever, and anyone waiting for things to go back to the old ways will flounder.

As leaders, we need to revisit our strategic fundamentals and lead change within people in order to effect change within organisations.

Making the changes we need to make

For the first time in two generations, humans experienced a sustained, global, traumatising event.

We’ve been through a collective bereavement, suffering all the classic symptoms. Finally, it looks as if we are heading for the last point on this curve – integration.

We now need to adapt our strategic thinking; five-year plans will be almost meaningless, but equally, we mustn’t fall into the trap of short-termism. There is genuine strength in flexibility – as long as we build our strategy on clear fundamentals: who our business exists to serve and why, what makes us special and what gives us the right to succeed.

We also need to focus on developing our people – treat them as individuals, and show them that being happy and healthy are not the outcomes from success, but the ingredients of success.

As leaders in tomorrow’s world, we have to instil in them the confidence to use their ingenuity, wisdom and compassion to shape a glorious future. We need to give them the skills to accept uncertainty and embrace the inevitable changes that lie ahead.

Campbell Macpherson is an executive fellow at Henley Business School and the keynote speaker for the Henley Partnership. Find out more about his next masterclass here.