We recently blogged to suggest that Covid-19 may have brought to an end the era of the Superman leader. We shared that there’s a train of thought that during the pandemic it was the empathetic, compassionate, listening leaders who were the most effective. In the world of politics, it was the more caring leadership style of Jacinda Ardern, Angela Merkel and Nicola Sturgeon which got the plaudits too. (By no coincidence, the female leaders.)

The blog must have pricked a nerve. There’s been quite a response.

Several voiced the view “It’s not before time!” Some others felt that it wasn’t a choice between one style or the other. They claimed that the future needed a blend of the empathetic leader who could still call on a more directive approach when required. (The word blended has emerged as a new favourite in the top ten of boardroom buzzwords. One leader in education told me it was being uttered with mind numbing regularity in her world).

The other trend that is worth drawing to your attention is the number of senior leaders who have ‘called it a day’ either in the period before the Covid-19 crisis or in the weeks since lockdown ended. There has been a changing of the guard at the top of British business.

We’ve seen Antonio Horario-Osaria at Lloyds; Keith Skeoch at Standard Life; and Kenny Alexander at GVC Holdings announce their departures in recent weeks. My Linkedin feed has been fairly busy with departures from the Big Four too.

In 2019, 13 new CEOs made their debut in the FTSE 100. They included Alan Jope taking over from Paul Polman at Unilever. Alison Rose taking the helm at RBS or Nat West as it is now called. New bosses also took over at Kingfisher, British American Tobacco and Reckitt Benckiser.

We’ve also seen Amanda Blanc step up to the top job at Aviva. Noel Quinn was confirmed as CEO of HSBC. Stephen Bird was appointed at Standard Life. Ken Murphy is about to take over at Tesco and Andy Briggs is the new CEO at Phoenix.

I am not qualified to judge which category these new CEOs leading British business fit into. But I am aware that something significant is stirring in the workplace. What that looks like will take a while to come clear – not least because the way we work will continue to evolve at a breath-taking pace over the coming months.

The current mood suggests that a new style of leadership will be required to engage employees in the future. The puzzle will be identifying what exactly that looks like. We are in for a period where changed behaviours will be firmly at the top of the people agenda. A new kind of leader and a new kind of leadership will take shape for the new world of work.

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