5 leadership principles for the post-pandemic landscape

New-age systems and solutions integrator, +OneX, started up around 18 months ago with four people and has since grown into a team of around 250 organically and through strategic acquisitions. Co-founder and CEO, Rob Godlonton, outlines the leadership principles that have enabled the company to grow throughout the pandemic and position itself as a leading, end-to-end business transformation partner for South African businesses.

Over the past two years, the pandemic has upended many of our expectations about how businesses should operate, leaders should behave, and workplaces should treat their people. The rapid shift towards remote work has blown to pieces many of our ideas about how people should be managed, showing that workers can be self-directed, accountable and productive when equipped with the right tools.

The Great Resignation trend, meanwhile, has highlighted how mobile top talent has become. The need to embrace rapid digital transformation has benefitted flatter organisations with a faster metabolism for digesting change. Those that have been able to move fast have had a definite edge in the pandemic. These pressures all demand a more collaborative, transparent and nimble approach to leadership.

Here are some of the principles we have embedded into our culture to keep up with the accelerated pace of change.

1. Lead without titles

One of the key principles we have embraced is to lead without titles. While we have people with titles such as CEO, we are striving to create a culture where anyone can take a leadership role when the right moment arises. Each person in the company can inspire others and influence the direction of the business. For us, that is what a leader does—brings people along with them on a journey of growth and discovery. A leader isn’t simply a boss who tells other people what to do.

2. Favour attitude over talent

Aptitude and qualifications are important when we recruit. But we’ll take someone slightly less qualified with a great attitude over someone with exceptional talent and qualifications who, for example, shows inflexibility about learning new things or cannot collaborate effectively with others. Talent on its own will not go far. A positive attitude combined with talent is the winning formula in any facet of life. Positive attitude times great aptitude in a team unleashes an exponential improvement in results.

3. Trust people

Creating an environment of trust is the key to unlocking human potential in any organisation. Give people your trust and be as open with them as you can — and they’ll dependably offer you transparency and their trust in return. To receive trust is empowering. Trust creates psychological safety, enabling people to take calculated risks, speak openly and be creative and innovative. Transparent leadership builds trust because people can understand why certain decisions were made and what the business’s goals and purpose are.

4. Learn as much as you teach

The real role of a leader—whether in sport, politics, the community or business— is to create an environment that allows people to develop, thrive and succeed in their jobs and careers. One of the leaders I most admire—and not just because I support the team—is Jurgen Klopp. As a Liverpool Football manager, he puts the players and the team environment first. He wears his passion for the team, the fans and the club on his sleeve.

I have had some great mentors and role models in my career, but one of the richest rewards of my career is becoming a mentor to others. I learn as much from mentees as they do from me. For me, a leader is someone always listening to, learning from, and thinking about other people.
This helps to fuel a positive culture in an organisation that sets it up for success.

5. Find your why

Business leaders today face rising expectations to do the right things for society and the environment—not just for their shareholders. To win people’s trust in this world, leaders and the organisations they serve need to need to have a ‘why’ beyond making money. The most successful entrepreneurs have a purpose, which they live and breathe with passion every day.

Our purpose is to create opportunities to improve people’s lives. We see a world where the advancement of technology brings a range of risks and opportunities—from the dangers of social media harnessed for propaganda or automation’s impact on jobs, to the potential of technology to help create a more sustainable and prosperous world. We want to help society and people use digital technology to make life better.

Leadership is not command and control

The mantle of leadership is not a job for a life earned by moving up the ranks in a business – it is a responsibility and privilege bestowed on one by others. Genuine leaders cannot be complacent or arrogant since leadership is earned and can be taken away. To be a leader means being willing to listen, learn and grow – and to be accountable for difficult decisions.

About Rob Godlonton, CEO of +OneX
Rob Godlonton is the CEO of +OneX, a new-age solutions and systems integrator that helps enterprises to excel in a dual-speed technology world. Before starting +OneX, Rob was CEO of iOCO, the Information, Communications and Technology (ICT) division at EOH. His career has also included leadership roles at Dimension Data and at Cedar Consulting, Infogain and PeopleSoft in the UK.