Mark Davies (pictured) is managing director of Link Mortgage Services
We trusted people to see us through the lockdowns and they did. We must continue to trust them.
Our history is replete with stories of excellent leadership. From Wellington to Churchill, our leaders have traditionally shown great virtues as well as deep flaws.
In business too, we have individuals that, in their time, have represented what we have believed we should aspire to as leaders and those who have also failed the test of time.
But I believe what constitutes good leadership evolves.
What was once acceptable and desirable in one era of history or business is not necessarily the model for current times.
The pandemic and its effects have changed previously unchallenged stereotypes of good leadership. Profit and shareholder returns matter but the Environment Social and Governance demands of investors and consumers alike is making new demands of businesses and their leaders.
The boardroom is having to develop a moral compass, like never before and looking after our communities (and our workforce), let alone the planet is now a pressing priority.
There is nothing linear about our exit from the lockdowns either as businesses or individuals. Battles on every level are being fought on the ground as people come to terms with what new arrangements may shape their working lives.
Many corporate leaders are worrying about how they move forward. There is no rule book. But this means that now is the time for real leadership, to instil confidence and deliver innovation in working practices that can really make a difference to people’s lives, be that back in the office or at home.
Alas, many corporates have spent years investing in cultures that have rewarded the notion that make it easier to say ‘no’ and not get fired for putting your head above the parapet. But it is apparent that making changes and behaving properly are no longer the cost of doing business but part of the reason we do business.
Returning to the office is not about ‘what do we have to do’ to return to an old operating model, it is about what do we want to do going forward and how do we take advantage of the new circumstances to rewrite the rule book and build on the trust developed in the lockdowns between colleagues and the trust placed in us by all our stakeholders.
Businesses cannot and should not hide behind meetings designed to circumnavigate what is intrinsically right but should rather build and develop a new working contract between colleagues at all levels based on trust and that offers a new vision of working.
We trusted people in this last year to see us through the lockdowns and lo and behold they did. Our own team massively improved our Net Promoter Score in 2020 and clients applauded how our business managed their loan portfolios in these difficult times. We are not perfect but confidence in what we have achieved should justly be high.
When challenges arise, our people step up to the plate. This means we can and should treat them as invested individuals with whom we can have a meaningful working relationship, one that does not necessitate ‘being in the office’ when clearly it is not required but allows them to ‘be in’ if we or they need or want to be.
Not everyone will want a new working arrangement, and not everyone will understand why some can be afforded this and others cannot. It will require a grown-up approach from everyone in the organisation but that approach starts with the business leaders. If we treat everyone like children – they will behave like them.