Whole-Life Leadership for a New World

A New Leadership Mindset for Today and the Future

The Culturati Summit got it right. We are living in a new world of work. Employees who left the office on short notice to work from home stepped into a different reality. In addition to advancing their responsibilities at the company, employees simultaneously provided more direct and real-time care for their families.

Some leaders looked backward. However, many showed resilience and professional competency by embracing the leadership needed to navigate this storm with empathy and compassion. It is not just what people do that matters. What matters is “how” they make their way through the challenges the world is facing and how they support their family and the community around them. The conference spotlighted outstanding leaders across various sectors, who unified around the importance of taking a whole-life approach to leadership. The Chief People Officers who spoke understand it’s not just about the work employees do; it’s about making sure employees are healthy enough to contribute from a position of mental and whole-life wellness.

Your People Come with People

Wendy Barnes, the Chief People Officer at GitLab, spoke about how her company created a Friends & Family day. It was a time for employees to shut off work, get out into nature, be with people, and take a walk. They also have a Slack channel that they use so that teams can walk and talk. Not only does leadership support this way of connecting, but when the team takes a break, the leaders take a break! To include the kids, they started Juice Box Chats, where kids from around the world could chat and get to know each other. That is outstanding! This is what it’s like to create culture and professional competence at work during times of intense transformation and change.

Already Have a People-First Culture? Now Lean In

Like GitLab, Jacqui Canney, Chief People Officer at WPP, championed employees’ success by supporting them with a whole-life approach. They didn’t want their team to be working with a crisis mindset, so they took their people-first culture to the next level. They strengthened employee assistance programs and addressed top employee concerns so that their people could perform to the best of their ability. Jacqui says, “what we’ve done makes me proud, but not proud enough to say we are done.”

Your Employees are Shareholders Too

Jignasha Amin Groom, Chief Human Resources Officer from Epicor, asked, “what can we do to have minimal impact on our employees? How can they know that we support them from a benefit and compensation point of view?” For Groom, this meant inviting employees to be a part of the process of coming up with the answer to this question. During the downturn, the entire company took a 20% pay cut. It wasn’t solely a burden for employees; leadership also took the cut. Jignasha reported that during the most difficult part of the crises, they had outstanding employee retention, high profitability, and their customers reported increased profitability as well.

Extraordinary Leaders Have a New Charge

The conference made a case for whole-life leadership as a norm and not the exception in times of world-changing events. It may be hard to see clearly because the dust hasn’t settled, but good things have emerged despite our blurry vision. Next-level leaders are paying meaningful attention to real-world situations relevant to those contributing to the success of their corporations. Situations like sleep, which Arianna Huffington spoke about during the opening keynote. When did sleep become a front and center topic at a leadership conference? And what took it soon long to get there? A celebratory nod is in order!

The charge of extraordinary leaders has expanded to include mental well-being, social justice, the environment, and community collaboration. It is not just shareholders who are the priority—employees’ partners, their families, and the community should figure too.

"This has been a time of great losses, but also a catalyst that allows us to reimagine the world we want to build." - Arianna Huffington

While some leaders will pine away for the “good old days” when people checked their private lives at the door, others welcome the amalgamation of life inside and outside of work.  

Imagine this: the parents of a newborn walk into the next room, pick up their baby, and rock them in their arms during a coffee break. That is human and whole-life prosperity in action. 

Whole-life leadership translates into valuing and supporting entire lives and the world at large while also working for stakeholder success and shareholder profits. That is the mission of emerging leaders.

This guest post was written by Jordan Mercedes // Executive Coach + Coach Trainer, Ethics Instructor at The Creative Executive.

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