Let’s be honest: leading has been anything but simple over the past twelve months. Not only have managers and other senior leaders been forced to do things remotely, but they’ve also had to mediate difficult and relatively unfamiliar personal situations.

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That said, the issue of leadership had hit the headlines far before the pandemic came into play. For a number of years, the business world has been all too aware of issues related to inclusion and empathy in the workplace, not to mention the lack of work/life balance experienced by countless professionals worldwide.

However, it’s perhaps the compounding of the challenge of managing remote teams in recent months that has truly separated the real leaders from the ones who merely implement the latest leadership best practices without putting their head and heart into the work itself.

Authentic leadership is paramount

Anyone can put a well-being newsletter together or write an email detailing de-stressing techniques, but it takes a true leader to understand, inspire and successfully lead a team to victory.

Nobody is saying this is easy, of course. It takes time, effort and maybe a little coaching along the way. Yet, there is one deciding factor that can truly define your standing as a dynamic leader: passion.

According to Kouzes and Pozner, leaders come into their own when they’re passionate about what they’re doing. The enthusiasm they have for the project or position in question is unleashed onto their followers through storytelling and tackling difficult projects and situations as a team.

On the other hand, a lack of passion or enthusiasm for certain projects can have the opposite effect, leaving your employees feeling isolated and dejected. This can often lead to mistakes and a lowering of quality standards. So what’s the message here? It’s simple really, follow your heart, because if your heart’s not in it then you’re unlikely to lead with confidence.

They’re human too

Of course, realistically you’re not going to adore every project that comes your way, and even if you’re the CEO, it’s likely you’ll have to take things on that don’t exactly make your heart sing. However, if there’s one thing you can control in these situations, it’s the well-being of your team—and we’re not just talking about the occasional check-in email here and there.

Holistic leadership may seem like just another business buzzword, but it’s an essential part of leading in the modern age. In terms of support, this means that leaders should not only facilitate the self-care of their employees, but they should also take good care of themselves. It’s no secret that people look to leaders as a source of inspiration, therefore if you sign out of Slack at a reasonable time in the evening, your employees are far more likely to do the same.

At the end of the day, you should be a source of inspiration for your workforce. That means that if you’re going to set up lunchtime Zoom sessions to help your team stay mentally and physically fit, then you have to show up too!

Collaboration is key

It’s easy to think that as a leader, you’re the person who has to come up with all the big ideas. However, while this may be true to a certain extent, it’s also important to not drown out your team’s ideas.

In order to achieve this, it’s essential that your employees feel enabled and empowered to put their own ideas forward. This is a process that may take some time, especially if you’ve just taken up a managerial role or you’ve transitioned from another position in the same company. But it can be easily achieved through communication and cooperation.

Hosting regular team get-togethers and pooling ideas as a team is a top leadership best practice, and encourages your employees to bring more ideas to the table or to comment or suggest amendments to your own. The first few may be a little bumpy, but with a little patience, these kinds of open forums can help you (plural) achieve some truly impressive results.

Go with the flow

Many of us are all too quick to view the past year in a negative light. While we’ve all suffered losses to some extent, it has no doubt brought a lot of opportunities our way in terms of leadership lessons.

In order to move forward successfully, it’s important that we carry these lessons with us, even when (we hope) things return to some sense of normality.

Perhaps one of the most crucial lessons is the way in which many of our employees’ personal lives have been thrust front and center, whether through young children sneaking into virtual meetings or because they’ve had to juggle several different hats at any one time in order to keep their families going.

Through these experiences, we’ve all learned that behind the professional individual there’s also a sometimes complex family life that should be taken into account, and that our team members shouldn’t be quite as quick to hide this as they perhaps once were.

If we want to become truly dynamic leaders, it’s about more than just following the trends. It’s about being the person that our teams—not only our businesses—rely on to thrive and reach their full potential.