27 Oct 2021

Hybrid leadership – leading in our new reality

Hybrid leadership – leading in our new reality

The remote working forced upon everyone working in an office when the pandemic started, is now shifting into a corporate desire to get people back into the offices to recapture the benefits of co-location lost during the past 18 months. What did we lose in the process?

Talking to our clients, we have learned that the most significant concerns are:

  1. Loss of creativity, innovation, spontaneous development and improvement initiatives
  2. Difficulty in cross-team and cross-function communication and tacit knowledge sharing
  3. Drying up of team spirit, team member motivation, and engagement
  4. Evaporation of individual engagement and well-being
  5. Onboarding new staff into the work community

Many companies do not want to force people to come back to the office five days a week. Recent studies also show that office staff is prepared to be back in the office 2-3 days a week. Working from home the other half of the week places a whole new layer of complexity on how to organise work and lead people in a so-called hybrid model that this creates.

What did we learn about leading and organising work in a “forced remote” situation that we can also apply in the hybrid model? We talked to some managers, and this is what we learned:

  1. Leadership needs to be even more individualised to each team member, based on maturity level and self-leadership skills of each team member, as well as personality regarding willingness and interest, to interact with others (e.g., extroverts vs introverts)
  2. Leadership requires more time, planning and focus than before. It cannot happen “on the go” (i.e. when you happen to bump into people). It requires a structured way of working and detailed scheduling of frequent one-on-one and team meetings with team members to stay in touch, be connected and present, also ensuring lunches, breaks and time for well-being.
  3. Leaders need to actively work on keeping and developing the team spirit, team and goal alignment, and engagement and motivation; otherwise, the spirit, motivation and work morale may evaporate.
  4. Leaders can trust that team members deliver results also when out of sight. Many people have been more productive than ever – even at the cost of their well-being.
  5. Online meeting facilitation skills are essential to engage team members, increase creativity and knowledge-sharing, and develop team spirit.

What are then the big questions now in the new work model/hybrid mode:

Organisation and coordination

  • Who is going to be at the office when for what type of work? How should this be decided? Do we need policies and recommendations? Should there be a policy, or do we let people choose themselves?
  • What should the office/workspaces be like anyway? Do we need more meeting rooms, smaller rooms for Teams meetings, quiet areas, active areas? Does everyone need their own seat? Do we have too much office space?
  • What kind of technical equipment and tools are needed to handle meetings where people are both online and onsite to a more significant degree than before? What kind of speakers, microphones, cameras, lighting, facilitation tools for collaboration, and skills to use all these are needed?
  • How do we build cross-team and cross-function collaboration in this complex organisational reality?

Leading people

  • How can we create and maintain energy, engagement and motivation if half the people work remotely and others in the same facilities? How do we get people motivated to work from the office if they don’t want to and we don’t want to force them?
  • How can we ensure that we treat people equally if some are out of sight others are there in front of us? How can we ensure people are seen, heard and considered equally? Who are the ones who prefer to work remotely and who like to come to the office – are we fostering different cliques/sub-groups, even sub-cultures?
  • How can we foster human interaction, build relationships and trust, interpersonal communication and team spirit? How can we handle nonverbal communication, and how should we support and handle a healthy work-life balance?

There are no ready answers to all these questions, but each company, team and manager need to agree on their ways of working in the new reality. Don’t miss this golden opportunity to move forward and create a better and more flexible workplace than before!

The first step to reap the benefits of this opportunity is to acknowledge that the transition needs to be well-led. That might mean developing a hybrid work strategy, deciding on policies and recommendations for how to get back, listening to team members and their desires, reviewing your office premises and technical meeting equipment, but most of all creating forums for dialogue, knowledge-sharing, benchmarking and sensemaking around hybrid work and hybrid leadership.


If you would like to know more or are interested in a programme to support your company to get back into the office in a hybrid mode, please contact us to explore how we can support you.


About the author

Pernilla Gripenberg has twenty years of experience in business education, ranging from MBA to executive levels in various areas in management and leadership. She has extensive expertise co-designing some of the most ground-breaking and innovative leadership development programs with Hanken & SSE’s clients. Her recent focus has been on self and people leadership grounded in positive psychology and neuroscience: self-leadership and personal efficiency, leading for top performance, change leadership, and communication and presentation skills. Pernilla is passionate about organisational culture and cross-cultural communication. As a program director and workshop facilitator with a positive and engaging approach, she is highly appreciated by clients and participants.

Image for Pernilla Gripenberg
Pernilla Gripenberg
Director, Design and Delivery - Ph.D.

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Image for Pernilla Gripenberg
Pernilla Gripenberg
Director, Design and Delivery - Ph.D.
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