Asserting effective leadership in a digital and uncertain world – our tips and advice

In light of recent months, it has never been more crucial for managers and employees to master two essential skills: leadership and agility. Because the future is inherently uncertain, a state of mind driven by strong values such as commitment and ingenuity is key.

Assertiveness: the key to successful teamwork

There can be no challenges or mobilising projects without assertiveness and listening to others. The opposite of assertiveness is the disaster of immature communication that we too often see in our professional life, where the transmitter transforms itself into a persecutor, a victim and a savior. It is the famous Karpman triangle, which is the key to analysing manipulative, dysfunctional and counter-productive relationships.

Assertiveness requires a lot of common sense, self-knowledge and the ability to manage one’s emotions. Assertive people know how to take the necessary decisions in a given situation, find compromises marked by pragmatism and deal with passive, manipulative or aggressive behaviours. They know how to communicate with impact and efficiency, using "I" most often without hiding behind "us".

Leadership is not restricted to leaders only and involves everyone. Assertive leaders can use various techniques to make themselves heard, such as:
- the "broken record", which consists in systematically repeating a request to make progress on a project;

- the "negative request", which aims to ask their interlocutor for more feedback on their own areas of improvement to move forward;

- the so-called “fogging technique”, which consists in focusing first on the points of agreement before attacking the points of conflict or improvement.

Crafting and implementing digitalisation

Digital communication is changing the way we interact with each other, both socially and professionally. As a result it is creating new, more shared and more transversal methods of leadership. Today we use the term "open enterprise" to explain the phenomenon of encouraging independent initiatives that continuously increase our responsibility, both individually and collectively. The primary role of a leader is to know how to motivate employees by creating an environment in which their creative and innovative juices flow.

At REYL, entrepreneurial drive is not an empty concept. Decision-making processes are quick, managers are approachable, projects are developing without being restrained by silos, and employees, as a result, are thriving. Digital transformation is profoundly changing our relationship with information. It actually has a psychological, behavioural and sociological impact on the way we work, not simply a technological one.

If we believe in Moore's Law, which states that the capacity, power and speed of computers doubles every eighteen months, we are and will forever be adapting, evolving and reinventing the way we operate. This paradigm of complexity requires agility and the ability to analyse, to question oneself, and to trust in the future.

Agility and resilience

These two concepts cannot be better illustrated than by the 1974 "Rumble in the jungle" in Kinshasa, the fight between two legendary boxers: Mohamed Ali and George Foreman. Against all odds, Ali wins the coveted title of heavyweight world champion. In an interview, he revealed his strategy: "float like a butterfly, sting like a bee". A formula that has become cult and which describes the perfect balance between agility and absorption capacity.

The same goes for the business world and the bank industry at large. A recent study by the Harvard Business Review (June-July 2020) shows that successful companies know how to be both agile, in order to identify, anticipate and benefit from changes in their market, and have the absorptive capacity to manage crises and withstand the shocks that invariably mark their path. The global pandemic, terrorist attacks, global warming and market volatility are not the equivalent to a right hook that is impossible to anticipate. Enlightened leaders, audit firms and intellectuals are constantly talking about the risks of the “butterfly effect”: a minor or even insignificant event in one region causing destabilising or devastating effects and sudden changes on the whole planet.

In a constantly changing world, a company’s strategic and organisational agility enables it to identify and seize growth opportunities, act quickly, adapt its business model, invest massively in a new market, or make a bold gamble on a new technology. But agility is not enough in a world undergoing profound change: a successful company must also have a high absorption capacity. It must be able to withstand blows, keep calm in the face of the unexpected, manage crises, reduce one activity in order to launch another and adapt to international challenges. Like Ali, it is critical to be aware of the importance of the balance between agility and absorptive capacity that alone leads to success: the combined strength of the butterfly and the bee.

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