After COVID-19, resilience and empathy will be vital for leaders, global survey says
The Sector > Workforce > Leadership > After COVID-19, resilience and empathy will be vital for leaders, global survey says

After COVID-19, resilience and empathy will be vital for leaders, global survey says

by Freya Lucas

August 10, 2020

A global survey of over 1,700 professionals has found a shift in the qualities employees are looking for in managers in the wake of the pandemic. Resilience, empathy, cultural communication and cultural intelligence are some of the qualities that have become more important for leaders since the COVID-19 crisis began. 


Respondents from 70 countries participated in the survey, 82 per cent of whom were in a management position and 11 per cent at the CEO/Board/company owner level.


Conducted by CEMS (the global alliance in management education), the survey noted the importance of maintaining connection and interaction when communicating virtually, with nearly a third of those who responded saying that virtual ways of working could have detrimental effects on their relationships with colleagues with whom they were not sharing a physical space.


Respondents considered resilience, empathy and the ability to communicate as being more important since the crisis, with the number of people who thought resilience was an important attribute almost tripling since the pandemic began.


Chair of CEMS and Dean of the Business School Professor Greg Whitwell said “The coronavirus pandemic has fundamentally disrupted ‘business as usual’ for many organisations. However, it has also presented an opportunity to reassess the qualities we value most.


“Effective leaders have proved adaptation is possible if they place quality over quantity when it comes to new ways of working,” Professor Whitwell added. 


The CEMS survey saw strategic vision ranked as the most important leadership quality both pre- and post-crisis, declining 6 percentage points to 68 per cent in July 2020.


Results-focus also dropped 9 percentage points (58 per cent to 49 per cent) indicating that business leaders may be judged on more than just the bottom line, at least in the short-term.


Executive Director of CEMS, Roland Siegers, said “In the past, the traditional, leader-centred approach has been something concrete – a collection of skills that can be taught and learned. However this research backs up the idea that in fact, fluid human skills such as resilience, empathy, communication and cultural intelligence are key to making sure that global teams thrive during times of disruption.”


The survey is the first stage of a CEMS project examining the skills needed to thrive post-COVID-19.


To learn more about CEMS, please see here. 

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