As the summer draws to a steady close, hospitality operators are enjoying the briefest of reprieves following the end of EOTHO and near like-for-like sales for the month of August. This moment of reflection will be welcomed, as the operational and financial environment of pubs, restaurants and bars remains volatile and uncertain.
Whilst productivity and profitability continue to form key metrics of success, the question of how to drive the strongest possible financial results cuts a less familiar shape. Even the most confident and charismatic of change leaders find themselves in uncharted waters and marching on with conviction may no longer be the key tenet of effective leadership. Does drive and determination need to give way to reflection and reserved decision-making, in a time when local lockdowns are on the rise and the end of fiscal support structures looms ahead?
The arrival of a global pandemic has given rise to the need for unprecedented versatility and adaptive leadership skills at every level of an organisation. Recognising the changing needs of the business and of its people is a dualistic skill set that requires both bold and charismatic leadership, as well as strong interpersonal and relationship building skills.
Whilst this may sound like the desired skill set of any effective leader, it has long been recognised that we each display a preference in our behaviour and decision-making processes. One style of leadership will come naturally to us, whilst the other requires constant self-awareness to achieve the same level of personal efficacy.
Jung introduced us to the idea that we exhibit preferences in our behaviour and different approaches in our decision-making. These natural tendencies display themselves most clearly during times of change and crisis, when the ‘fight or flight’ mode has been activated by the unsettling circumstances that surround us.
Even the most dynamic of change leaders will stumble if they fail to appreciate the personal impact of the pandemic upon the individuals who work for them. One leader may have experienced the desire to position themselves on the break of the wave, riding out the twists and turns of the pandemic by whatever means necessary. The less adrenaline inclined may have experienced a sense of foreboding and believe whole-heartedly that hibernation would be the best course of action.
Whilst there are no right and wrongs when it comes to preference – we can each choose one way or the other, at any given time – we do however have one, and it stands to reason that we are our most engaged, motivated and productive selves when our personal needs are being met and our preferences satisfied.
The demand for adaptive and responsive leadership is at an all time premium, as the rules and expectations surrounding our lives and livelihoods take on new meaning. The true test of a leader during times of change is to respond not only to the changing demands of the environment but to the needs of the people who surround them. Relentless forward momentum may well suit the risk-tolerant and campaigners for change, whilst waiting in the wings and watching how the rest of the world reacts, a far more stable and secure plan for the risk-averse.
Being able to adopt a leadership strategy that identifies and nurtures the personal preferences of the individuals within a team is a rare and unique skill, that disguises itself as the effortless charm of a natural leader. To acquire such a skill set requires a deep, personal awareness of the values and drivers of every person within a team and investing the time and energy now to form such relationships will prove an invaluable use of resources in the weeks and months ahead.