Leadership has been tested over the past year, with many business leaders taking on the ultimate challenge of completely changing the way in which we work in the face of adversity. It has been necessary for leaders to motivate their employees from afar, usually online as their employees moved to work from home where possible, and to juggle keeping their businesses running while supporting their team in one of the most difficult times they have ever faced.

The notion of leadership has had a makeover this year. The past few months have made it abundantly clear that leaders need to think creatively and put reactive strategies to the test. Transformational leadership has been necessary in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are some of the ways in which this transformation has taken place.

1.    Adapting quickly to a new situation

Quick decision-making was essential for strong leadership over the course of 2020, and the ability to adapt at a minute’s notice has become second nature to many business leaders. As we’ve gone in and out of lockdowns in the UK, businesses have had to alter their strategies accordingly and make sure their priorities are always correct.

At the beginning of the pandemic in the UK, we saw many household names such as Vauxhall and Airbus adapt their strategy at the drop of a hat. They turned their attention to the uncharted territory of aiding the fight against coronavirus by helping in the manufacturing of ventilators and PPE while putting their regular work to one side. For a leader, the decision to pause normal working procedures for the greater good cannot be taken lightly. Excellent leaders need to understand the impact and importance of these decisions, and know exactly the right time to adapt.

What’s more, with the market in most industries moving largely online, adaptability doesn’t end with the pandemic. True leadership is planning for the future and adapting business strategies accordingly.

2.    Working from home

It goes without saying for many, but if your employees are able to work from home, make sure this option is available to them. According to the Office of National Statistics (ONS), 46.6 per cent of people in the UK were working remotely (at least for some of the time) in April 2020. Whether in the midst of a lockdown or not, some members of your workforce are likely to feel nervous about the prospect of working in the office. Alternatively, many may find they were simply more productive working remotely, or enjoyed the balance more.

As a leader, it can be hard to wave goodbye to the traditional way of doing things. But if you show that you trust your employees by allowing them to work where they feel most comfortable, you’ll be rewarded with their gratitude and hard work.

3.    Offer motivation from afar

Although many of your employees might have embraced the work-from-home life, others are likely to have really struggled this year. Because of this, 2020 was the year in which leaders had to offer more motivation than ever, and from a distance.

Good leadership has taken on the form of increased connectivity, virtual team building activities, and putting staying in touch at with all team members at the top of the priority list.

4.    Making mental health a priority

Increased connectivity with your team is a good start. But to be a truly great leader, it’s essential that you listen to the needs of your employees and do what you can to support them through this difficult time. According to Health and Safety England (HSE), work-related stress, depression, and anxiety have consistently increased in the UK over recent years. The figures peaked in 2019/20, with 828,000 workers reporting their struggle. Offering mental health support to your workforce and being empathetic to everyone’s circumstances has become a crucial element to good leadership.

5.    Calm and confident

If there’s anything that leaders have come to learn over the past year, it’s how to remain confident in the face of a crisis. Although leaders everywhere have been put to the test, panic and uncertainty can take you and your business down a dangerous path. You may not know what to expect from the future. But as a leader, you should approach any difficulties with confidence in yourself, your team, and your business.

6.    Communicate clearly and effectively

With so much changing over the course of 2020 and the beginning of 2021, including new coronavirus restrictions being brought in at various points and in various regions, clear communication became more important than ever. A good leader should never leave their workforce in the dark; communicate clearly, regularly, and instil confidence in your employees.

7.    Looking ahead and setting goals

It may be hard to imagine what the future will look like right now, but all good leaders need to be forward-thinking and constantly considering ways in which they can drive their business forward. We faced a lot of uncertainty in 2020, so it’s never been more important to create COVID-proof strategies that will allow you to lead your team into future success and prosperity.

Leaders should be extremely proud of how they and their team adapted to this new way of working. They will be able to continue their efforts through 2021 and move forward in a positive way.