New Leaders – what are their qualities (part 2)

COREcruitment remained open for business through the pandemic. It has been a very interesting time to be a recruiter. The needs and expectations of both clients and candidates are drastically different to three months ago. The best leaders are adapting fast to the new world – they are looking for a very different profile of person to operate within their businesses moving forward. The pandemic will, of course, end. But the world will look like a very different place.

Along with our weekly webinars and interview activity, we are going to be writing a series of articles as the crisis unfolds (and hopefully normalises) with input from key industry figures. These articles will focus on different areas of leadership and are very much created to share best practice and support business leaders through these challenging times.

We have had a massive response from some great industry specialists so this week we are sticking with new leaders. Here are the top quotes – enjoy!

Jonathon Swaine, Managing Director, Retail – RANK

We are having to work more collaboratively than ever and think customer-first at all times. A can-do attitude and a preparedness to apply agility to our plans are pre-requisites.

And getting a telephone call is a welcome break from back to back Zoom meetings!

Lindsay Southward - Group Director of People & Brand Development, VILLAGE HOTELS

As we move forward into re opening hospitality business across the UK many employers will have not only reduced income but potentially reduced work forces.

In the new norm employers need the “best of the best” they need employees who are compassionate and understanding of people’s fears, employees who can communicate and share understanding, give confidence to our guests that their wellbeing and safety is our priority. But above all employees who can do this with personality and passion and remind people, what part, hospitality plays in our lives, a place to connect, a place to escape and a place to relax. I believe people want to be safe, but we also need to remember, what we have missed, is people and interaction during lockdown.

So, hospitality business need to balance safety and well-being with delivering a culture which embraces this and celebrity service.

Nikki Taylor, Founder, IWI MANAGEMENT

What are their qualities?

People focused (actually valuing people and their contribution - not saying they are people focused and their actions are the opposite), competent, open, honest and transparent are essential qualities - it is ok to say if you don’t know the answer. Knowing how to bring a team together, communicating clearly, being creative, listening to all ideas/feedback/suggestions and being inclusive will also be key.

Which behaviours will employers be looking for?

Having people who are aligned to the mission and vision so they will work collaboratively to achieve it. Flexibility and adaptability to approaches will be important as the new normal will be a learning time for all and there will be mistakes happening.

Will employers be more open to looking outside of sector?

They have to be as this will enrich the talent, knowledge and experience of the team. There will need to be a balance of industry and skill experience throughout the team. However, there are many transferable skills across industries so by blending them will be beneficial for all. Being focused on the person is key as someone could have 3 years of industry experience but has no motivation or aren't adaptable which will not enhance a team. Having a diverse workforce at all levels will achieve better results and always focus on the right person for the role.

Will employers re-skill existing teams or look externally?

Up-skilling is essential now and by focusing on developing your team it will have long term benefits for the business as well as the individual. People always want to learn and are interested in gaining new skills. It is sad that people more likely to get a new job than a promotion - this is fundamentally wrong. There is the need to look externally at times but seeing if there is someone in the business that with the right training and support could flourish in the job, should always be one of the first steps in the recruitment process. Many businesses would be amazed at the talent and potential they have in the teams if they opened up these opportunities to them.

Sam Scott, Divisional Managing Director, SODEXO

Natural leaders emerge through a crisis and have the desired skilled set to succeed. Teams look and want leadership and fundamentally the traits do not change, clear vision on direction, honesty and integrity, clear and timely decision making all underpinned by superb communication skills. There is a need for more subtle skills to surface now, empathy, agility and resourcefulness that will enable organisations to support the teams, identify the opportunities quicker and adapt form what we were doing pre-COVID at speed to survive.

In terms of behaviours  there is no change our values have never been so important to the organisation as they are today: Service Spirit, Team Spirit and Spirit of Progress all have key behaviours supporting them that ensures we provide a customer centric outlook backed by strong teamwork always looking forward.

Sodexo is always open to looking beyond our sector, this starts at the top with our CEO Julie Ennis, Julie joined the company and the industry 2 years ago from the banking sector  and progress to our front-line teams where we have guest services that have expertise from airline and tourist industry. Key skills are transferrable when supported by Subject Matter Experts. In Workplace management, people skills and general business administration are core attributes that enable candidates to enter the industry.

We are seeing our teams adapt and take on new skills today, this crisis has pulled the teams together and have an attitude of how we can help that we strongly admire. From front line catering teams that are supporting cleaning, security and administration to business improvement teams now switching to support our Rise programme of reopening. We are all looking to the future to see what workplace is and will be whether in an office or at home.  As a company and as individuals it is in our DNA to meet the need with internal re-skilling and external where gaps arise.

Mike Williams, Global Chief HR Officer, KELI DELI

So many outdated beliefs about employees only being productive when in an office have been debunked. New leaders will need to be able to win the hearts and minds of their teams at a distance, they will need to be able to measure performance in work output and impact and not presenteeism.  Businesses have suddenly become much more emotional places, where many organisations have put their people's well-being over profit others did not. People have had time off the hamster wheel and had time to think more about what they want their life to be, they will return expecting more from their organisations and leaders. Flexibility and work life balance will be a must.  Leaders will need to chance some of their outdated ideas.

Leaders will need to be able to connect with their teams and organisations in different ways, acting within a values-based framework will be every more important and it’s simply accelerating the idea of a Purpose Led organisation.

There is a chance organisations may be more open minded about sector skills, instead looking for cultural fit or traits like pace, agility, intellect. Without the need to be based in an office labour markets will change as you will be able to access talent pools anywhere. I think we will see some increase in the use of technology to replace the traditional meetings.  Leaders will need to learn how to navigate these products.

Jane Sunley, Founder, PURPLE CUBED

What are their qualities?

More enabling and empowering, less command and control. More clarity around what's required and letting people get on with it, more emphasis on outputs than inputs. More trust.

Which behaviours will employers be looking for?

Ability to get things done, working collaboratively, good communication, they'll want to know 'what you did during covid' (volunteering, learning etc…)

Will employers be more open?

There's been a lot of talk about transferable skills so I would imagine they're some have become more open to this. However, enlightened employers will always hire on attitude and train for skill so it's more about candidates having the right approach and general attributes and being able to demonstrate that with examples.

Will employers re-skill existing teams or look externally?

Most of the employers are desperately trying to look after their people and keep their jobs open for them. There have always been labour shortages in this sector and employers will want to hang onto good people.

Kim Gieske, Managing Director - HUMAN ADVANTAGE

I watched an excellent webinar from Thomas Kolditz who was a US army general and now has a PhD and the key learnings from his talk were:

Inherent motivation

Be calm. Don’t show anger, fear or other kinds of negative emotion because people are already spun up, if they get a slight amount of this from a leader who goes badly.

Learning about threats inherent to their environment

Create an outward learning orientation. The amygdala is where people experience fear and anger. The prefrontal cortex is where the performance of tasks happens. If always focussed outward/ task focussed and it helps people to stay calm. E.g. If you were in a car accident e.g. calling AA, taking numbers, you’re OK. When you stop doing is when you become upset. Tell an upset person to focus on what’s really important (don’t tell them to calm down).

Shared risk

People trust leaders who share the same level of risk as they do. Now is the time for leaders to be climbing into trucks and going on delivery runs. Now is not the time for them to be at home while their people are on the front line.

Common lifestyle

People want their leaders to be aware of their circumstances. Leaders should show a simple and humble lifestyle.

Relationship between competence, loyalty and trust

People will use social means to build loyalty e.g. staff parties, dress down Fridays but when in crisis a lot of that social capital washes away. All they are concerned about is, is my leader competent to get me through this. Much more importance than niceness. Project some loyalty downward e.g. let them see you work and it needs to be authentic. Don’t create a circumstance to make you look good e.g. Mubarak photo.

Christian Barden, General Manager – Europe – Customer Experience and Brand Director - KEGSTAR

The qualities of accountability and genuine adaptability will now be even more important in every leader and employee. Leaders should be looking even harder at recruiting and developing talent that delivers high standards of service and quality within their functions and to their customers. Strategic focus now must born from customer experience with a clear digital presence in its execution.

Overall, we’ve relearned that people are so important and that “normal” obviously wasn’t as great we thought so use “outsiders” and make it safe for challenge and ideas to thrive so the “new normal” is better for your people and performance.

Some great insights there for other businesses.

Thanks to all who took part, next topic out next week, if you have any suggestions on topics, speakers or you would like to get involved in these articles then please reach out


Date Published: 9th June 2020