Leadership During a Pandemic: Are Our Behaviors Changing?

Our personal and professional lives have been immensely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Of course this raises innumerable questions. One question we’ve been getting from practitioners in the MRG community: how will this change the way people work and lead?

We’re eager to find answers to this as well. In fact, we have been studying our assessment data during the past few months so we can identify changes in assessment trends as soon as they become evident.

One of the broad areas we have been exploring is leadership changes in different regions. In the United States, for example, we have been comparing LEA 360TM data from May 2020 and later to previous time periods. For many people in the United States, May is when they came to realize that their modified work arrangements were going to last longer than initially thought. We assumed that some changes in leadership might start to become evident at this point. Two questions we have looked at are:

  1. Are leaders demonstrating different behavior patterns since May 2020?
  2. Have the behaviors associated with effective leadership changed?

Much to our surprise, we have not found large shifts in either of the two areas. Leaders seem to be demonstrating behavior patterns that are very similar to pre-pandemic times. We have also seen that the behaviors that correlate with effectiveness have remained fairly unchanged: the pre-pandemic “formula” for conveying effectiveness is still useful today. There are three behaviors that have stood the test of time and continue to be highly important for effective leadership: Strategic, Management Focus and Communication. It is not surprising that

  • Considering the implications of your decisions and being future oriented,
  • Being willing to take command and make things happen, and
  • Setting clear expectations, and keeping others informed

are all essential to leading effectively. They might also be medium-independent. That is, they are achievable behaviors regardless of how one is interacting with their colleagues.

In a way, it is reassuring to see that any pandemic-related changes in how people lead their teams and their organizations are happening slowly. The tools that we use to communicate and interact on a regular basis may have changed, but who we are at the core and how we behave can remain stable. This reassures me that our previous leadership research is still relevant and applicable. Only time will tell whether there will be more significant changes in the ways that people work and lead. Like many of you, I have many hypotheses about the future of leadership. We are only halfway through the third quarter of the year and I cannot wait to see what our assessment data show in the upcoming months and even years.

What are some of the questions you have about how the pandemic will change leadership? What are some of your predictions about what we will be seeing in the near future? Long term? Do you think the results will differ by region?

(Are you part of the MRG network? Log into the MRG Knowledge Base once to access the full MRG research library.)

Also, if there’s anything we at MRG can do to help support you or advise you as you transition to more online coaching, training, and facilitation, please don’t hesitate to reach out. We’re all working through this together (even if we’re apart!).

About the author

Maria is Head of Research at MRG. She loves a challenge and often gets a little too excited about running new studies. She finds peace and balance by cooking (as long as her husband is doing the cleaning) or being anywhere near the ocean.

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