Jessica Colmenares Barbosa
Director General
Alta Tecnología en Filtración de Aire, SA de CV
Expert Contributor

The Renewal of Leadership in Times of Pandemic

By Jessica Colmenares Barbosa | Tue, 07/12/2022 - 11:00

The concept of leadership has evolved over the years. Despite what the literature indicates, the competencies of a leader cannot cover all the predicaments and paradigms that must be broken when leading high-impact teams.
Organizational structures change, adapt or die along the way. A timely change of thought is better than hours of consulting, trying to reconcile elements that do not fit into the speed that the evolving industry demands today.

The question at hand is how to nurture the convergence with new generations? 

A leader must be an integrator of talents and a motivator and director of actions toward a common goal. But in his daily actions, he faces various risks, personalities and needs. It is not possible to stratify your work team  pigeonholing is seen as discrimination but individualism kills the collaborative sense that any organization should promote.

Therein lies the great predicament: Leading teams when they don’t need your direction.

High-performing teams know the what, the how, the when, and the why. The flight hours invested in them are capitalized when the conductor is not “necessary.” With the pandemic, this approach stood out. The tactic was executed from each collaborator’s home; the management function was limited to verifying that the flights left on time and integrating the results into management reports. But what about the strategy? How many of us faced staff cuts, entire structures that had to be eliminated from the organizational chart to focus resources on the core of the business and not close like so many companies that could not withstand low demand.
This change in thinking is what we face as leaders in our new role in organizations with limited resources, not only financially but those related to adaptability, resilience, self-learning, innovation and determination.

With the pandemic, the structures were modified, all sectors changed at least one element in their processes; therefore, we leaders threw ourselves without a network into directing the uncertain, motivating change, encouraging adaptation, and creating innovation.

In response, a new concept of leadership emerged. A real leader, or “Realer,” is someone who does not care if schemes are flexible. We are in another era where the focus is on guiding the work in different modalities, with different generations and producing results, asking difficult questions, forcing the team to get out of their comfort zones and sacrificing convenience. Passion and energy are the key to breaking schemes and giving way to organizational change.

We are leaving the era of super-bosses to enter that of real leaders or exceptional people with the ability to attract, inspire and cause change but with an intrinsic duality, what is known in the literature as Level 5 leadership, which is personal humility + professional will. 

In history, the possessors of this paradoxical combination of traits are catalysts for excellence. A notable example is CEO Darwin E. Smith of Kimberly-Clark, who transformed the organization by raising its stock value 4.1 times, outperforming comparable companies like 3M and General Electric, and beating competitors Scott Paper and Procter & Gamble. Level 5 refers to the highest level in the hierarchy of executive abilities. Transformations from good to great don’t happen without Level 5 leaders at the helm. They just don’t happen. (Jim Collins. Level 5 Leadership: The Triumph of Humility and Fierce Determination. Harvard BusinessReview, Latin America. July 2005).

The term Level 5 has its origin in the book, Good to Great, by Jim Collins, who describes certain competencies to achieve professional greatness.

  1. Humility: Implies understanding the destructive power of arrogance, acting with respect through small gestures and recognizing the team’s work in its entirety.
  2. Asking for help: The leader is not afraid to ask for help, on the contrary, he considers it a strength and a way of recognizing the talent of others. As a result, the leader manages his learning, develops the talent of others and the organization grows.
  3. Passion: With a genuine attitude, a Level 5 leader brings the team together and actively collaborates. He superimposes collective causes on his own success and goes beyond a monetary reward. His motivator is personal improvement.
  4. Self-management: These leaders demonstrate their self-discipline, inside and outside the company. They are committed to the vision and they manage their risks and their skills to be that guide that turbulence demands.
  5. Talent manager: Their determination makes them experts in finding the right people and adapting them to the roles that the organization demands to achieve success. This implies integrating different generational talents and making them converge. Much has been questioned about the age limits when posting a vacancy. Constitutional reforms are currently being sought to encourage hiring those above 50 years. Why? At what point did the experience become questionable? As “Realers,” the task consists of converging knowledge with the dynamism and positivism of the new generations and the experience of experts with many flight hours to minimize risks and promote organizational innovation.

Real leaders exist, this paradoxical combination of traits can be developed with humility and will. Level 5 leaders do the following:

1. Demonstrating eloquent modesty, avoiding public flattery.

2. Channeling their ambition toward the company, not toward themselves. 

3. Looking in the mirror before assigning responsibilities and not blaming other people or external factors for poor results.

4. Generating extraordinary results.

5. Demonstrating high determination to achieve long-term results.

6. Setting a vision and walking it through without looking back.

7. He is not a conformist, he demands of himself, he manages himself, he learns by himself.

8. Recognizing achievement, motivating, inspiring, listening to your team and taking action.

9. Being an example, consistent in actions and thinking.

10. Personal aspirations take a backseat. The priority is organizational success.

Organizational success is the function of leaders: the predicament is resolved and high performance teams with support in all technological tools achieve results but with a Real Leader, those results will be exceptional.

Let’s educate leaders, let’s converge generations, promote organizational innovation, and lead with vision and determination to go from good companies to excellent companies!

Jessica Colmenares Barbosa Jessica Colmenares Barbosa director general