Workforces worldwide pivoted nearly overnight from most people working in the office to almost everyone working remotely. That period was challenging for many companies and organisations, but how has the workplace permanently changed as we move forward? How can leaders still be effective when they and their teams are working virtually?

As we still try to process what has happened, we can start to see which organisations have managed to tread water, which have sunk and which have thrived beyond expectations. Leadership methods have undoubtedly changed, and trying to define ‘virtual leadership’ requires a new way of thinking. When we look at the success or failure of a business, what common threads are there in leadership?

Virtual Leadership Can Still Be Effective, But We Must Take It Much Further.... We Need Virtual ‘brain-friendly Leadership’

Workers are not together in the same physical location. Leaders must somehow complete their everyday tasks and activities with an extra hurdle thrown in--the fact that people may be spread out around the country or even around the world. 

For many, the idea of virtual working and leadership is difficult to understand. However, clarity around expectations means that people understand the vision and what needs to happen to accomplish that vision. Leaders must be more fluid and more agile--they must be able to keep the business functioning while still adapting to what remote workers require. However, expecting leaders to solve all the problems we face is largely futile. The documentary ‘Make Me A Leader’ addresses this issue directly, using neuroscience as the foundation for understanding how we can improve. 

As the world slowly moves back to ‘normal’, it’s clear that normal is not the same as it was a few years ago. Many workers prefer to work from home and may resist returning to the regular 9-5 office hours. A survey by Bloomberg found that 39% of those surveyed said they would consider quitting if their bosses weren’t flexible about working at home. When the results only focused on those born in 1980 or after, 49% said they would consider quitting.1 Will companies accept this change, or will we return to the workplace of years past?

Now is an excellent time for leaders to reassess how they interact with their employees and address their goals and needs. Brain-based leadership training is more important than ever, especially because the old ‘normal’ is likely gone forever.

As we look at which organisations have managed to survive and thrive during the pandemic, we should examine their leadership methods to see what works and what does not.

We would likely see that compassion, agility and empathy were more successful than autocracy, unresponsiveness and aloofness. This time of turmoil presents a great opportunity for leaders, but only if they are willing to make the change. We can recreate our workplaces into ‘brain-friendly’ workplaces, where focusing on mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health creates happier, more productive employees.

Now is the time for us to look after the people who work for us. When a company steps up at a time like this, it builds loyalty, commitment, and long-lasting teams.

Arjun Agarwal

We Need More ‘brain-friendly Workplaces’

Changing your mindset can take time, and many people are resistant to doing things differently. However, agile leaders have been able to still lead effectively, even in a digital format. And the data is showing that people have been suffering. With such upheaval, it is no wonder that the mental health of many has declined. What are leaders doing? Are they responding appropriately to the changing brain-based needs of their employees?

A bigger question might be, do leaders have the tools needed to adapt and make the changes required by their workforce? The disconnect will be when leaders do not have the skillset to ensure a ‘brain-friendly’ workplace and instead try to press on with business as usual, ignoring what is really happening.

Virtual leadership and workplaces are likely here to stay. A ‘brain-friendly leader’ is better able to adapt and pivot during times of turmoil. Why not use this opportunity to improve your leadership abilities and enhance the working conditions for you and everyone around you?

1. Duffy K. Nearly 40% of workers would consider quitting if their bosses made them return to the office full time, a new survey shows. Business Insider, 2021, (2021, accessed 28 July 2021).

Originally posted on: 16 September 2021
Last updated on: 12 April 2024
Silvia Damiano

Silvia Damiano

Founder & CEO
About my Brain Institute

Scientist, educator, author, speaker, coach, award-winning leadership specialist, filmmaker and creator of the i4 Neuroleader Model & Methodology.

Silvia's scientific background and curiosity about the human brain led her to a decade long journey of research into optimal brain functioning and the application of neuroscience in leadership and daily life. Her past and current roles have uniquely prepared her for the current undertaking, that of leadership activist & change agent.

Silvia Damiano founded The About my Brain Institute in 2009, with the purpose of democratising leadership & neuroscience. She has a passionately held belief, that leaders in our 21st century global economy and their organisations must radically change long-held ideas of what constitutes effective leadership

In her ground-breaking books ‘Leadership is Upside Down’, ‘Brain-Friendly Leadership’ and the 2018 documentary ‘Make Me A Leader’, Silvia provides both compelling evidence and explores the importance of leadership in our personal and professional lives and what it takes to develop the human behind the leader.

Silvia has worked in different countries, across many industries, helping teams and organisations improve business performance. Silvia’s clients have described her as a passionate, dynamic, a highly experienced speaker and master facilitator on the topics of Emotional Intelligence, Cultural Change, Neuroleadership & Engagement.

Silvia is passionate about leaving a legacy of well-rounded leaders who can act and decide in a way that better serves humanity. Her clients include Microsoft, Australian Stock Exchange, NSW Government, VISA, Fuji Xerox and Manpower amongst many other global companies.

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