Data-informed people leaders

Who is a people manager? Who is a people leader? 
Back in the olden days, a leader was considered successful primarily when they delivered tangible results and measurable outcomes. This meant evaluating leadership through the prism of numbers and the authority they had among other team members. Fast forward to today’s business world, the emphasis should be put on so-called “people leadership”.

Like ‘Level 5’ and servant leaders, instead of primarily focusing on outcomes, people leaders prioritize building relationships with their own and other team members. They organize team meetings regularly to make sure that employees work towards a common purpose. They also run 1:1 and coaching sessions to help employees uncover (and put to use) their full potential. Such an approach towards leadership has proven to be more effective in motivating teams to engage in work and work towards their goals. 

How do ‘People Leaders’ and ‘People Managers’ differ?
Some of the key differences between ‘Managers’ and ‘Leaders’: 

Simply put, managers are responsible for maintenance, while leaders are responsible for development. While a leader spends time on their people and seeks to optimize work processes, managers invest in processes over people and operate on the basis of status quo.

People leader as a servant leader and versatile leader 

There are two leadership types, located at the different sides of the spectrum:

  • Servant leader – who as the name indicates is focused on serving those around him including teams and communities that they belong to. Their main goal is to ensure the growth and well-being of the people that they lead.
  • Versatile leadera leadership style which is in high demand today, considering the fast changing business environment. It requires the leader to be able to adjust their leadership style to the situation and the type of people they manage. They’re better equipped to deal with change and uncertainty.

Great people leaders are rare
It’s said that great managers are hard to find. While it might be true, it’s due to the fact that skills required to be a great manager are scarce. According to Gallup, only 1 in 10 people have the talent to lead. 

A lot of us possess some leadership qualities and traits. However, very few have the right combination of talent that will allow them to excel in the leadership role in a way that would significantly impact company performance. These 10% of individuals are natural leaders, who are able to engage their team, customers and instill a high productivity culture. 

What are the top 10 abilities of a people leader? 
A great people leader:

#1 Puts their team before themselves.
The leader realizes that the key to success is instilling a common sense of purpose and belonging among team members. 

#2 Recognizes employees publicly.
They realize that showing appreciation and recognizing a job well done can do wonders for employee motivation.

#3 Removes blockers.
Not only do people leaders act upon issues reported to them by their employees, but they’re also proactive and keep an eye out for and identify roadblocks.

#4 Communicates with others.
They encourage team members to communicate openly during 1:1 meetings, as well as among each other during team discussions.

#5 Is transparent in their communication. 

#6 Isn’t afraid of difficult conversations.
They don’t stray away from difficult interactions. Rather, they treat it as a way to clear the air and an opportunity to learn.

#7 Provides timely feedback.
People leaders recognize when to provide feedback. They understand feedback is time-sensitive and the sooner employees receive it, the sooners they can improve.

#8 Creates clear guidelines for how to achieve results.
They set ambitious goals and high standards, but make it clear for employees how they can get there. They also ensure they have all the tools they need.

#9 Delivers on promises and commitments.
This ensures their authority and trust among team members.

#10 Strives to motivate their employees.
People leaders seek to inspire their team members and motivate them in their work.

What are the expectations of people leaders after a pandemic?  

Operating in BANI
Short for “Brittle, Ambiguous, Non-linear, Incomprehensible”, it’s an approach that puts an emphasis on creating anti-brittle, anit-fragile organizations that are comfortable operating in unexpected circumstances, such as the recent COVID-19 lockdowns.

Adopting a ‘growth + versatility mindset’
People leaders are expected to:

  • Adopt an ecosystem mindset. This means recognizing that organizations rely on extensive networks built on the basis of internal and external connections.
  • Switch between leadership styles whenever need be. For example, switching between tactical to operational, or enabling and forceful, as in the case of versatile leadership.
  • Learn how to unlearn. People leaders are expected to work in iterations and recognize when there’s a better way of working on and achieving goals.

Moving to a ‘Remote Smart’ collaboration model
As the workforce is becoming dominated by Millenials and Gen Z’s – two generations that have high levels of tech-savviness – people leaders must adopt a ‘remote smart’ approach. It is built around three elements: a meritocratic collaboration culture, routines & rituals, and making use of advanced collaboration tools.

The three skills leaders must develop to become future-proof

#1 Agility & Resilience
Successful leaders should know how to thrive in an ever-changing, ambiguous business environment, where priorities tend to shift continuously. 

#2 Human 2 Human
At a time like the COVID-19 pandemic, people leaders should put an emphasis on nurturing employee well-being and helping them with their challenges. This entails showing compassion and empathy.

#3 People Data (incl. nuanced team collaboration evidence) - informed
Future-proof people leaders are expected to base their plans and decisions on nuanced, team-level data. For this purpose, they may turn to employee satisfaction survey data and ONA platforms that provide insights on workload, work-life harmony, and team rituals, among many others. Access to real-life data can help the leader start a discussion on various desired and undesired teamwork patterns.

How workplace analytics can help people leaders?  
In general, workplace analytics can help individuals become better leaders, here is how:

  • Through providing training on versatile, resilient, and compassionate leadership.
  • By giving leaders access to people data including collaboration analysis like ONA by Network Perspective. Looking into insights such as team’s collaboration vs deep work time, intra team vs cross team meeting number and time, work day length, time and number of meetings after hours etc. will enable managers to change to a leadership style that will help them lead more effectively in the new reality. 

Read more on our blog:

How can Team Collaboration Analytics help enable people leaders? →Future Proof People Leaders – an introduction to pivoting people
leadership capability building →
How to leverage advanced People Analytics with strong ethics upfront? →

Start working in a data-informed smart way

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