The pandemic challenged leaders and their leadership styles across the world when met with an unprecedented series of disruptive events. This time also marked a decrease in confidence executives had in their leaders. However, this scenario has changed now and businesses are witnessing an emergence of more confident leaders who can lead teams smoothly, even under unfavourable business circumstances.
Kunal Sen is Partner at Odgers Berndtson since January 2022. He is a member of the firm’s India leadership with a special focus on senior-level mandates across industrial and technology sectors in South India and professional services pan India. Sen was earlier the Executive Director for a boutique search firm building out their new Consulting, Technology and Services (CTS) practice. Prior to this, he served as India Managing Director and a Senior Client Partner for management consulting firm Korn Ferry.

Two years ago, just 24% of executives had confidence in their leaders. This crisis of confidence conveyed a clear message: the majority of leaders lacked the ability to face the world’s most disruptive forces. Today, it tells a different story. Over 42 % of them are confident of their leaders, according to Leadership Confidence Index (LCI) Report 2022 by executive search and recruitment firm Odgers Berndtson with consulting company Gartner.

Leading organisations through turmoil

COVID-19 brought a crisis to every leader and they had to quickly adapt to unprecedented conditions. At the two extremes, the pandemic brought opportunity for some, while others needed to focus purely on survival. Either way, the crisis meant it was no longer business as usual and leaders had to decisively realign their management teams with a new and clear purpose. We believe that leaders got to show ‘what they are made of’ in this crisis and that brought a new level of alignment and engagement.

But two years on and the picture is very different. COVID-19 galvanized the global cohort of business leaders. Faced with a crisis the likes of which have not been experienced in recent history, many are seen to have rallied, adapted, and ultimately succeeded in leading their organizations through turmoil.

Now, 42% of executives have confidence in their leaders. While this is still less than half, given the extent of the pandemic and its acute impact on global economies, we believe this is very significant progress.

Retaining Talent and Leveraging Technology

Organizations which have confidence in their leaders outperform those which don’t, most notably by attracting and retaining the best talent. Understanding where this confidence comes from, how it can be maintained, and how it can be lost are therefore critical to long-term success.

Technology, ESG and I&D, and preparation for the future are at the heart of this. Those leaders who genuinely understand which technologies to invest in, inspire greater confidence. Those leaders who are delivering real change on ESG and I&D promises and demonstrating a strong sense of purpose have more engaged and subsequently more confident workforces. And those leaders who are seen to have the resilience and agility to embrace further disruption will be viewed with more confidence by those they lead.

The most fascinating aspect of this is that we are talking about the same leaders. Over the last two years, there has been no discovery of a new and magical way of leading. The question then is: what has changed, and how do we ensure this new-found confidence in leadership continues?

Ultimately, ‘confidence in leadership’ is subjective, but it is right at the heart of attracting, engaging, and retaining the best talent. When companies get this right, they dominate their markets. If they get it wrong, they struggle, and the simple fact is poor leadership is the cause.


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