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Glen Orsak

by Glen Orsak, Director of Telfer Executive Programs

Glen Orsak, Director of Telfer Executive Programs reflects on leadership as we move through another year of the pandemic.

Yes, I am daring to use that word - pivot.  Again.  Hopefully we can finally put it to rest.  Many things – and many people – need a rest after 690 days since that calamitous Friday the thirteenth in March 2020 when we packed up our laptops and office essentials and headed to work from home for a couple weeks.  And we began the ‘pivot’.  To online.  To working from home.  To virtual teams. Perhaps the word ‘pivot’ and our focus on it needs a rest; and perhaps a new north star word can now emerge as we settle in with COVID for the long term and away from the incessant pivoting. For me, I am feeling that the word ‘purpose’ may suitably name what is needed next.    

Last year in my 2021 New Year’s post I imagined our future 365 days hence.  I talked of the pivot to online and of embracing the possibilities and change that came with that pivot.  Much of my musings came true but I didn’t imagine that we would be in a very similar place at the start of 2022.  I expect that most readers of this post will have similar sentiments.  It seems that we have been focusing on pivoting a lot.  And perhaps we have become a bit dizzy if not lost. 

As readers of this post will know, my professional passion is leadership and, like many, I have been absorbing and synthesizing the abundance of assertions and proclamations about how to lead in uncertain times, how to lead a hybrid workplace, how to strengthen leadership resilience to cope with VUCA, etc.  Many will say that the need to focus on these leadership skills is now essential – times of turbulence, disruption and uncertainty provide the opportunity if not the imperative to hone these and other skills to maintain our relevance as leaders.  However, when I listen to participants in our programs, when I work with clients on our custom offerings, the conversations about leadership skills, competencies and behaviours are not the same as they were 24 months ago.  There is something else that is needed now from our leaders – and we sometimes struggle to name it.    

My conclusion is that honing the typical skills may not be enough to be effective in leading in the post pandemic recovery and beyond.  I am seeing that the actual role of leaders is changing – and possibly forever.  Leaders that embody the typical roles of ‘captain’ or ‘coach’ may find that the tumult of constant change and uncertainty requires them to re-evaluate their posture and to be even more honest and vulnerable about their capability and role as a leader.  These two ‘c-words’ convey that our leaders will be, should be, and hopefully are wiser and more all-knowing about solutions and strategies than the followers.  

However, I believe that it will be more common than ever that leaders in the next era may be just as lost as their followers in determining how to respond to the unending unexpected changes – or no more capable than their followers at discerning the right path forward.  And yet – leaders will still have an incredibly important role to play – a role that may never have been needed as decidedly as it is now. More than ever, effective leaders now are focusing on how to provide a sense of stability, to embody the certainty that all will be ok, to become the moral compass in the times of shifting mores and to provide the haven from the storm.  Perhaps we need not try to be the only source of inspiration for forward direction – but rather be the leader that brings our people back home to discover their purpose – by demonstrating that we are very clear about ours.      

If this shift in the leader role is true, it will be uncomfortable for many – and perhaps a time to not only focus on bettering our skills, but a time to focus – again – on our purpose and role as leaders and the ultimate purpose of the enterprise, of the team and of the work that we do.   

So once again, I am finding an exciting reason to stay passionate about what we are doing at Telfer Executive Programs.  We are supporting leaders to reflect on their purpose, their role and to lean into the changes that they need to make in their leadership. This will – after all – change the world.  One.  Leader.  At.  A. Time.   

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