Challenges for Leadership in Organisations

The past two years of the Covid-pandemic have fundamentally changed the way organisations work and conduct their businesses. It is not just the impact of the pandemic itself - caused by shutdown, restrictions on travel, limitations on physical meetings - but also the acceleration in the advancement of technology. In my view, it is the impact of technology that is going to offer a significant challenge to organisational leadership.

What are some of the challenges for leadership? If we assume that technology has made brick-and-mortar buildings for offices not essential for effective working and if we concede that there is significant cost savings in holding virtual meetings for discussions and decisions, then the first challenge for leadership would be how to ensure employees remain motivated enough to be productive performers. In my view, conventional theories of motivation - Abraham Maslow, Frederick Herzberg, Douglas McGregor to mention a few - will need to give way to more contemporary ideas that are relevant for the day.

Second challenge for leadership would be defining roles and responsibilities of middle and senior level managers. In an organisational environment that is driven mostly by possession of specific skillsets by executives, do levels of management stay relevant? Roles and responsibilities, in my view, will need to be based on outcomes and objectives and not hierarchical levels.

Third challenge would be the organisational vision itself. In a world that is changing so furiously fast because of the technological changes, how long would 'long' be? Earlier, we used to speak in terms of a 30-year or a 20-year vision. Is that too long a period to scan the horizon? Should it be just five years? Can a vision or purpose of an organisation be defined for a period like five years?

These are some of my thoughts.

by Prof S Balasubramanian