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How to Foster Leaders: 3 Lessons From the 2nd Fastest-Growing Company in Europe

How to Foster Leaders: 3 Lessons From the 2nd Fastest-Growing Company in Europe

PwC’s 2022 Global Workforce Hopes and Fears Survey highlighted some essential needs employees seek to be fulfilled in their jobs. Financial rewards for work, hybrid work schedules, higher purpose, and investments in employee wellness were ranked the highest. Employees are willing to leave their companies if their needs are unmet. 

This new market encourages leading companies to understand how to accommodate individual needs in the constantly evolving work culture.

Ilona Bernotaite is the Chief People Officer of Kilo Health, the second fastest-growing company in Europe in 2022, according to the Financial Times. She shares 3 lessons about fostering leadership qualities in aspiring managers.

Embrace balance within the company culture

In his book, Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less, Alex Soojung-Kim indicates how rest is crucial for both productivity and creativity. While creating a work environment that embraces ownership and flexibility is essential, a big part of ensuring high results is ensuring a good work-life balance. Leaders must find the best ways to recharge to avoid burnout and ensure high-quality work. 

“Managing people is all about learning how to set clear goals, delegate the tasks, and create processes that eliminate busywork,“ says Bernotaite. “Leadership requires having a clear head – and it’s impossible if your body and mind are chronically tired. For our people, we offer multiple ways to recharge – from extra days off to spa retreats.”

A stressful environment at work can also reduce effective rest at night. Dr. Justin Varney, the National Strategic Advisor on Health and Work at Public Health England, says that a lack of sleep can be responsible for general deterioration at work. Employees are then easily distracted, unable to communicate, and may behave differently toward colleagues. 

The hustle culture affects the entire business; not only does long-term performance suffer, but so do relationships between leaders and their staff.

Companies embrace rest in many ways. One of the most common examples is Google. They invest in a more restful workplace with foosball tables, nap pods, and healthy food options. Tyréns, a Swedish company offering professional services, gives their employees a full three weeks of vacation during Christmas and New Year for rest and recuperation.

While Finland has progressed to be an IT hub, they are still strict about their 40-hour work week, along with their hour-long lunch breaks. Work-life balance is a central focus of day-to-day life in Finland. This means they take time to invest in their physical and mental well-being along with their work.

Workplace mentorship programs for leaders

Formal mentorship has been proven to be an effective tool in evolving workplace culture. Mentorsme recorded almost 67% of businesses benefiting through increased productivity due to mentoring. 55% noted the positive impact mentoring had on their profits. 

Bernotaite highlights that “Leadership skills very often are learned, not given. At Kilo Health, I constantly see superstar specialists that become team leads. But technical skills don’t mean a person will automatically become a great leader. It is not easy to be a team lead, a lot of responsibilities land on their shoulders, hence companies must support their new managers to make sure they gain these necessary skills if they want their new managers to succeed. For example, we have an internal training program called “Leadership academy,” where we help managers develop various people management, time management, delegation, and self-development skills.”

These trends are crucial for leaders to note, especially when investing in mentorship for themselves. Mentors, especially those from a similar field, can provide a fresh perspective. Through versatility in skills and experience, they can hone crucial skills required to be a leader in this evolving market.

Having a mentor also saves leaders a lot of time. There is lived experience they can bank on to make decisions that would have otherwise taken them years to achieve themselves. 

According to research from the Journal of Managerial Psychology, leaders with mentors have been shown to have positive changes in their leader identity and self-efficacy. 

Mentors can also provide foresight, which could have been especially beneficial for those who lost top talent during the Great Resignation. 

Implement learnings from external real-world outcomes

Learning and development (L&D) will soon become an important facet of the evolved work culture. The rise of digital platforms has made learning for leaders accessible across the globe. 

LinkedIn’s 2020 Workplace Learning Report recorded a 57% increase in spending for online learning programs. 50–60% of L&D professionals also leverage leaders to champion upskilling within their organizations.

“In 2022, Kilo Health has increased our learning budget by 1,500%. As a fast-growing company, we expect our people to keep up and develop their skills. We are building a company that is powered by a thirst for knowledge. But learning without opportunities to put it in practice means nothing, hence we offer our people all the tools they need to implement the new skills right away,” says Ilona Bernotaite.

Soft skills such as problem-solving and communication are a few essentials that such programs can facilitate among leaders. It is especially desirable for managers of the newer generation of millennials and Gen Zs.

Research on leadership training has documented that coursework, workshops, on-the-job experiences, and the right mentors are requirements for becoming effective leaders. An essential facet noted was also engaging in real-world scenarios, which required adjustments and adapting.

The recent “permacrisis” in Europe posed a great example of the need for effective leaders. From the pandemic to the war in Ukraine, leaders from the political and business arena have had to lead their followers toward some form of normalcy. Such situations require leaders to adapt while the events evolve.

This is why leaders need to continually invest in themselves, not only through upskilling but also by taking personal time for their physical and mental health.

The necessary skills for leaders are changing 

New leaders will need to understand changing work cultures along with current economic demands. Today, the skills of efficient leaders are very different from what they were just a decade ago. 

Listening, learning, adapting, empathy, and communicating are a few essentials the leaders of today should acquire. To be effective for their team, leaders should also look toward investing in their health and regularly upskilling within their careers.

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