What it takes to be a great leader in 2022

Three cheerful businesswomen walking together in an office

Article by Chitra Balasubramanian, Chief Financial Officer at CircleCI

As UK pandemic restrictions lift after a strange start to the year, leaders, entrepreneurs and business executives reach a milestone in the lifting of COVID restrictions.

It means greater freedoms as much as it also means greater personal responsibilities. Teams might be incredibly keen to work together in person, and issues of staffing, location, and procedures are important areas of discussion.

Leading through change, bridging divides and bringing together different teammates, is a huge challenge. It can boil down to five simple pieces of advice.

Regularly step out of your comfort zone 

The best type of growth only comes after learning experiences. It’s the same for athletes, students, and anyone in business. Staying in your comfort zone is likely limiting yourself and your team from maximum potential. 

Push yourself to think big, beyond the possibilities of your own individual needs. Once you have your big idea, then you can start to lay the groundwork and chip away at the smaller elements.

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Also, lean on others to help you in your journey to get comfortable with the uncomfortable. Accomplishing your goals takes a village, but if you take on the hard stuff and surround yourself with supporters, you’ll be amazed by the opportunities.

This is a gift you can give your colleagues as well as yourself.

Lead with empathy and curiosity 

Our differences are the source of so much strength, creativity, and knowledge, collectively. This is well known to science and leadership studies but still needs to be heard loud and clear across all organisations. With diversity comes more creativity, a leader’s role is to ensure their team is comfortable celebrating their differences. To do this, leaders must lead with empathy. 

Some of the biggest issues a leader will ever face all come from people matters relating to differences in opinion, style, and management. Learning to be inquisitive and empathetic is a real superpower.

Build a framework for openness 

Teams are only flexible when they are given the tools to succeed, and trust to allow them to experiment and grow.

Effective leaders are those that are calm, analytical, and can dissect the impact challenges, mitigate risk, and help their team determine the right steps to take. With that style, colleagues will be open to sharing their roadblocks, mistakes, or successes. It’s a way to encourage consistent feedback that will drive a team to always iterate, grow, and improve.

In 2022 so many changes will evolve, and they are sure to be part of complicated challenges that need people and technology to create solutions. Business leaders in all sectors must continue to reassess and refine strategies around productivity, hybrid working, collaboration, and change validation, to grow and improve organisations in a changing world.

About the author

Chitra BalasubramanianWith more than 20 years of experience accelerating business growth through data analysis, Chitra Balasubramanian is best known for scaling technology start ups. As the current Chief Financial Officer at CircleCI, she is responsible for overseeing the company’s general & administrative functions.

Prior to CircleCI, Chitra most recently led strategy & global financial operations for RetailNext, the leader in comprehensive in-store analytics. During her tenure at RetailNext, she also chartered a team of data analysts, consulted with clients, and delivered useful data-based products that change the ways retailers sell to their customers. 

Chitra also serves on the Board of Trustees for the Computer History Museum. She is a certified public accountant and holds a bachelor’s degree in Economics from the University of California at Berkeley and an MBA from the UCLA Anderson School of Management.

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