Woman having a video-call.

Leadership in a Hybrid World

Karin Killander
Oct 29 2021 | Insights

At our monthly events series ‘Unfiltered’ we have candid conversations about the most pressing challenges at work. This October we brought together Helen Basford (AstraZeneca), Clive Smith (FIS Global), Calum Byers (Executive Coach, Ezra) and Alina Costache (Podcast Host and Change & Storytelling Strategist) for a discussion around hybrid leadership.


There has never been a more challenging time to be a leader. As if a global pandemic wasn’t enough, leaders today also have to manage generational gaps, technological disruption and new hybrid working environments. 

So what new skills do leaders need to succeed today? These thought-leaders shared their best-practice in a (virtual) room full of executive coaches, HR and business leaders.

The Evolution of Virtual Communication

Hybrid working might be the buzzword of 2021 but the reality is that it has existed for a long time. The difference is the speed of which it has evolved and the new expectation that we now have for it to become better. 

“For the last 10 years we’ve put up with hybrid work  – not really working. We accepted poor conference calls and the fact that not everyone can always tune in but now we can’t put up with it being okay, we need it to be good.” Clive Smith says, Head of Executive Team Development & Coaching at FIS Global.

COVID-19 has been the catalyst for change and as we’re coming to terms with that remote work is here to stay, we demand more from our experience.“ Our technology is in greater demand to work for us now. It needs to be intuitive, it needs to be helpful, it needs to connect us better, and be something that doesn’t restrict us in our everyday flow of work”, says Helen Basford, Global Coaching Capability Lead at AstraZeneca. 

Leaders need to lean into technologies like VR, AI and augmented reality and use a combination of them to make things work – whether it’s by improving our meeting spaces or the way we learn and connecting with others. We’re evolving and our technology needs to do the same. 

Human skills have never been more important

Without the office encounters and daily small-talk, leaders need to make a greater effort in connecting with their employees. The pandemic has caused a disconnect between leaders and employees and a clash in perception of what the future of work should look like.

While many leaders count on the office as a source for collaboration, for Gen Z’s, connecting online is second nature. To bridge the generational gap and create good hybrid cultures leaders need to work on actively developing their ‘human skills’ through active listening, purposeful communication, empathy and trust. 

We’re now recognising that when we interact with people at work, we’re interacting with the whole person. The ‘Heroic Leadership’ role has expired, organisational structures have flattened and we’re realising that leaders, more than anything, are humans too. 

“Authentic connection requires us to slow down and truly listen”, our Master Coach Thom Wright says. “We need to take the time to connect with our colleagues in a genuine way”. Our speaker Clive Smith also stresses the need for unstructured conversations – something that is often lost in a virtual environment. 

Leadership happen at all levels

Although leaders must mirror the behaviours they wish to see, there is also a need for everyone in the organization to think about how they show up online, what they bring to the table and what their individual roles are in making hybrid work better.

Leadership needs to happen at all levels, so that we can collectively create a workplace where people thrive. We need to make conscious decisions to create the change we wish to see and actively work towards creating a better future.

As one Unfiltered participant said; perhaps there is a need to revisit the relationship between the organisation, and the employee. It might be necessary to reprogram ourselves so that we can think more innovatively about what we really like the future of work to look like.

Teach people how to become better leaders with Ezra’s world-class employee coaching, built to fit into today’s working life. We’ve redesigned leadership coaching for the modern age to help transform people through affordable, scalable and high-impact solutions, with equitable access through our world-class coaching app. Find out today how digital coaching could make a big difference to your organization.

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