Positive and honest leaders will be the ones to steer us through the COVID-19 pandemic.

That is the perception of Australian workers, who consider these the most important leadership attributes as staff return to workplaces and adapt to the new normal.

Exclusive data and insights from Dynata reveal 28 per cent of more than 1000 respondents rank positivity as the number one most important leadership quality right now, followed by honesty (24 per cent), empathy (19 per cent) and open-mindedness (15 per cent).

By comparison, creativity and focus/drive are ranked number one by just 4 per cent and 8 per cent of respondents, respectively.

Career management company Steam Capital founder and chief executive Libby Marshall says positivity and honesty are particularly important in times of uncertainty, when employees are fearful or insecure.

“People are feeling more vulnerable than before,” she says.

“(As a leader or manager,) you want people to know you are on their side.”

Steam Capital’s Libby Marshall says honest leadership is vital in uncertain times. Picture: Supplied

Wrike Asia Pacific regional director Fintan Lalor says leaders also need good communication skills and the ability to clearly articulate purpose and strategy.

“Right now, employees are even more in need of guidance and inspiration,” he says.

“They need to feel that they’re making an impact more than ever before to maintain their motivation as every day is Groundhog Day.”

Research from the work management platform reveals almost half (47 per cent) of Australian workers have been left in the dark on how their company will survive the economic toll of the pandemic, and two in five (40 per cent) of those working from home are not sure what employers expect from them in terms of working hours, availability and productivity.

“Leaders need to be both timely and honest with their communications to keep employees in the loop on what’s going on, even if it is bad news,” Lalor says.

“There are enough ambiguities in the world as it is, and the priority is to give your workers reassurance and transparency.”

Marshall says leaders and managers can use this period of COVID-19 disruption to refine their leadership skills.

“Whether a supervisor in a coffee shop or managing a restaurant or managing a small team for a company, this is the time where you can start to critique yourself and learn how to grow your leadership skills,” she says.

“There are people with natural talent that give them a potential edge to their leadership journey but all leadership skills can be developed.

“People in leadership and management positions are always learning because it’s not an exact science.”

Marshall recommends aspiring leaders read books and articles on the topic and consider further study, whether a free online course or a Master of Business Administration.

The next step is to take on the behaviours of a leader.

“We don’t have to be a leader of an organisation by title to be recognised as a leader,” she says.

Libby Marshall

Author Libby Marshall

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