Engaging Leadership: Challenges and Opportunities in 2020


Written by:

Wendy Edwards

Human Capital Leader





Dealing with the impacts of the pandemic and the move to more remote ways of working has provided both challenges and opportunities for leadership.

Most people have had to adapt and really think about how to lead their teams during exceptional levels of change and ambiguity. Beyond dealing with the usual aspects of their business, leaders have had to consider more closely the fundamental issues of health, well-being, safety and financial viability.  There are constant trade offs and answers often conflict.

For many people, without the regular routine of working in an office or similar, they have felt less connected to their colleagues and the organisation they work for, in particular those who are new to the world of work or new to an organisation. The ONS has reported that over two thirds of UK adults are worried about the impact of Coronavirus on their lives – with 56% feeling stressed or anxious.

At PwC we recognised early on in the pandemic that the impact on the mental health of our people could be significant and have done a lot to provide support in this area.  This has included ‘reach out’ programmes to ensure everyone is contacted by a senior leader, just to check in and ask how they are doing.  We have also held workshops focused on mental health and trained leaders to be mental health first aiders. Most recently we have provided all 22,000 UK staff with a subscription to a mindfulness app.

Some people, however, have felt better connected to their work colleagues than ever before and have learnt a lot more about them; whether that is through sharing personal experiences or providing an insight into their home life through the video screen.  For many it has been an equaliser, an opportunity for leaders to show a more human side which they may not have done in a more traditional corporate setting.  It is well documented that being authentic and displaying some vulnerability is a critical element of effective, engaging leadership.

Looking ahead, one of the next challenges for leaders is to consider how they effectively build and sustain an organisation’s culture as people continue to work from a variety of locations. They must remain rooted in the traditions that made their organisation successful, while continuously embracing new ways of working.  How leaders support their teams so that they understand the culture, build effective relationships and really feel they belong needs to be the next key area of focus.