In an interview with SCIKEY, Mr. Pankaj Rai, Senior Vice President Strategy at Wells Fargo, speaks about changes in the leadership patterns in the post-COVID world, adapting to digital innovations in the work from home phase and his perspective on networking.
Many business leaders are facing the toughest leadership challenge of their lifetimes. What are the top leadership traits that businesses will require to adapt to the post COVID world?
COVID has accelerated a lot of what was already present in the world but was moving at a slower pace pre covid. For example, we always made use of digital technology; however, COVID gave it an unimaginable boost.
Waterfall leadership was a mechanism to deliver projects in a deterministic manner, whereas agile leadership is a new way of working. The latter is based on the assumption that things are volatile, and one needs to increase the delivery pace as also be creative. This whole move towards digital is encouraging organizations to transform themselves as well.
Agile leadership of today is quite different from the waterfall leadership of the past. Waterfall leadership is one where the future was predictable and we can move towards it in a structured way. Agile leadership, on the other hand, believes that the future is uncertain, so it is important to rely on inputs from customers, team members and other ecosystem members to create the new future. Today, it is difficult to tell people what to do. One can give them the means, but they must figure things out on their own. This isn’t easy to follow for those who are used to having command and control.
“Digital Disruption will change whatever skills you have learned”-What kind of digital disruption are you suggesting in one of your articles in the E-book from Wiley?
In the past, the assumption was that companies could predict their future, making them create five and ten-year plans. But, today, we know that this no longer exists. So now, the idea is to plan with a directional approach. Tech giants such as Amazon and others are disrupting the space in unheard ways. Therefore, it is safe to say that one certainly cannot predict the future for any of these companies can disrupt it in their way. One could, instead, be agile while keeping their eyes on the market. You need to have a sense of direction and be ready to change plans according to the market changes. “Being rigid would not do today; one needs to be agile.”
What are your top priorities as you plan for the post-COVID-19 workplace?
I believe that the post-COVID time isn’t a new era but a gradual transition that is taking place. Some of us will go back to our routine, whereas some things would be different than it was in the pre-COVID world. A few things that may change is the attitude towards working from home. This is true for myself and other organizations as well. Even as work from home existed earlier, it didn’t feel too good an option. But now, having experienced it for quite a while, I think it comes with certain benefits. From now on, I and many others would promote it, and it will have implications on the way we plan our future in terms of working within organizational spaces. People tend to confuse occasional WFH with remote working (permanent WFH), the former will be more prevalent since humans are social beings after all and do like to engage face to face periodically.
Earlier people could view each other and assume that work was being done, which isn’t the case now. Hence, new measurement ideas are coming up to calculate productivity and work done. This is better for all to understand the fruits of their labor and hence is a positive change. People will take a while to visit crowded places such as malls. There is also a change in the mindset of people regarding consumption. People are beginning to understand that most of our earlier consumption was unnecessary. Even with the presence of a vaccine, people are going to be skeptical about meeting others.
What all strategic technologies and digital innovations you are planning to adapt to the new normal?
People across organizations have adapted themselves to digital innovations and technologies amidst the unfortunate circumstances. I wasn’t much of a tech user but have now become adept at using Zoom, Microsoft meetings, etc. Videos are one such form of technology that has received quite the boost during the lockdown and has grown multi-folds. Even the consumption pattern of individuals today are purchasing laptops for themselves and their kids, Wi-Fi installations, etc. The pattern is now leaning towards technology, and this is only going to grow in the future.
What is your view on networking?
Networking, to me, is a means to reach an end. It could be done for a variety of reasons such as curiosity, exchange of information, etc.
Networking is a give and take relationship. Interact with someone to share something with them, learn something from them, and offer to help them in whatever way possible. This is called a sustainable form of networking.
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