Is leadership languishing?

At Argon International we believe that in the post-Covid world, strong and effective leadership is more critical than ever. This is equally true whether building genuine trust and engagement with teams or unlocking a high-performance culture.

We recently sent a survey to a select group within our Argon family with this in mind. 

We asked our audience nine questions, split across two sections:

  1. Managing teams
  2. Trust and engagement

The results we garnered are incredibly interesting.

In the first Managing Teams section, reassuringly only 0.8% of people think that leaders have not adapted to a post-Covid world, with 50.4% reporting positive signs of progress. 

61.8% have seen positive changes in team management style whilst 56.9% report regular check-ins to help remote teams work at their best. 46.9% say leaders have a good grasp and are making some efforts to foster the link between psychological safety and performance. 

Yet despite all this, 52.8% think that there is a clear scope for leaders to benefit from extra support to help them build high-performing remote teams.

In short, a good start has been made but there is still significant room for improvement.

In the second Trust & Engagement section, perhaps surprisingly 47.2% say that trust and engagement is only marginally better post-Covid. 15.4% reported it a lot better but 35% reported it slightly worse. 

Along the same lines, 58.5% think that businesses could do more to engage their staff in a remote world. 67.5% say that managers are aware of their staff’s well-being and are making some efforts to support / influence.

Finally and perhaps most interestingly, 39% say that managers have very limited ability to manage conversations regarding their staff’s wellbeing, with 56.1% thinking they are reasonably equipped. 

So there’s the rub, the room for improvement mentioned at the end of Section 1 is gradually detailed throughout Section 2, and its weakest point is arguably exposed in the final question. Namely, managers desperately need training to be able to discuss their employees’ wellbeing. 

To summarise both sections, managers are doing their best with the tools at their disposal, but are in need of extra tools.

Anyway, enough from me – I hope you find the results of our survey as enlightening as we did! 



Forms response chart. Question title: 1. How far do you think leaders have adapted to a post-Covid world?. Number of responses: 123 responses.

Selected Comments

Pleasingly there are clear signs of progress here:

“In a recent survey deployed with my client a very high percentage came back to say they’ve had a positive experience with a hybrid working approach. They are now thinking about the next horizon. While this is true for office workers , more still needs to be done in more operational roles.”

“Covid forced managers to trust employees to work from home, this provided them with an opportunity to see that people can do a great job while working remotely. I’m pleased to say that this has led to more trust in the workplace & greater flexibility with the introduction of hybrid working. I’ve also seen many managers having many more personal conversations with their staff members, I think because people are working remotely we get an insight into their home which connects people on a personal level & this leads to managers having conversations that they might not have had if work was taking place in an office setting.”

“I think there has been a large-scale trial of many different approaches to work and collaboration over the last 2 years; to have stepped into this on such a scale and pace has meant we have definitely gained new insight on the relationship between engagement, productivity and workplace.”

BUT some signs of relapsing to old ways..

“Leaders are not thinking deeply enough about hybrid working. It seems we are just splitting time between home and office, but not consciously using office time for specific work tasks that need collaboration.”

Forms response chart. Question title: 2. To what extent have leaders successfully adapted their style so they are successfully managing hybrid/remote teams?. Number of responses: 123 responses.

Selected Comments

Good examples of a switch in style and more listening:

“Those who were good (people) leaders have adapted their styles further to be successful in managing hybrid and remote teams; those who were not good (people) leaders struggle with the loss of (perceived) control.”

“Leaders hold sessions where they invite anyone from teams globally to participate and ask questions about recent changes and developments. It has become the new normal to have Teams calls.”

“Leaders embracing things like ‘fika’ which are virtual or face to face connections with colleagues over coffee. Less telling, more asking what team members need”

BUT there is still a gap and issue for younger people, who learn by proxy…

“One of the challenges is in supporting younger/junior members of the team. In a full office environment they can observe more experienced peoples’ behaviours and have the opportunity to ask adhoc questions. Working remotely doesn’t offer the same opportunities.”

Forms response chart. Question title: 3. To what extent are teams on the ground working hybrid / remotely getting sufficient week-to-week management support to perform at their best?. Number of responses: 123 responses.

Selected Comments

“This has declined – collaborative/ meeting culture has increased and find myself in more meetings since COVID than before. In a recent survey with client, less time is now spent with developing and coaching teams because there is higher individual role demands. Therefore support is not where it should be.”

“My experience has been a positive one but I’m an experienced professional who doesn’t require support to successfully do my job. I do however recognise that younger or less experienced people might find that hybrid working limits their opportunities to make connections, access the support they need & seek opportunities, in my opinion this is where leaders need to go is their attention & create time & space for these members of staff.”

“it really depends on the leader. Some were “absent” leaders in the past and nothing has changed for them since Covid. But others really connected and engaged with their teams. We see great differences across regions, cultural backgrounds in how leaders are adapting to the post-covid situation.”

“I have regular touch points with my team – working remotely means I have even more “informal non work” check ins that I would’ve done in the office”

Forms response chart. Question title: 4. Do you think leaders are aware of the link between team pyschological safety & performance?. Number of responses: 122 responses.

Forms response chart. Question title: 5. To what extent do you think leaders would benefit from more support (coaching, tooling etc) to help them build high performing hybrid / remote teams?. Number of responses: 123 responses.

Selected Comments

“One of the first things I did in this role to commission training support for managers on how to lead change whilst improving employee engagement”

“I feel establishing a high performing team is still often under valued. Far too often I see leaders establishing teams and not considering the team dynamics, establishing boundaries, encouraging people to get to know one another, or dealing with toxic situations. I think leaders are aware this is a good idea but do not know how to do it effectively.”

“Generally, the will is there but most leaders still need support to give them the frameworks, tools – and sometimes the permission to put this into practice.”

“100% they need help, I think leaders need to be shown, presented with real examples / case studies of successful hybrid / remote working teams. I think many of them are still trying to figure it out how best to utilise the tools they have and what initiatives to put in place.”

“This is a critical need as the working environment, landscape and employee expectations change”

Forms response chart. Question title: 6. To what extent is staff engagement better or worse post Covid?. Number of responses: 123 responses.

Selected Comments

“People are now overwhelmed with digital content, resulting in lower engagement outcomes”

“People do not have a chance for ad hoc engagement, strengthening relationships”

“Again, this is driven largely by Managers / Leaders and their styles pre-Covid: those who led / managed by ‘control’ I see more likely to impact staff engagement negatively; those who focused on engagement, development and well-being of their teams pre-Covid are more effective now.”

“Anecdotally then think engagement went up in may companies in early days of covid and through initial lockdown periods as everyone “pulled together” to keep the train on the tracks so to speak. If companies persist on a more remote model, then do think there could be negative implications on engagement. This may of course be perceived differently by Generation X/Y who are more digital in their DNA!”

Forms response chart. Question title: 7. To what extent could businesses do more to engage their staff in a hybrid / remote world?. Number of responses: 123 responses.

Selected Comments

“Needs some more creative thinking from businesses”

“Some are struggling with hybrid mode. For example, offices need reconfiguring, working practices need to evolve, policies need updating etc to enable effective collaboration in meetings with both onsite and remote workers.”

“Although I see a shift I think at the beginning of Covid engagement was high and this has tailed off with many returning to the office a few days a week. I wonder if simply revisiting some of the online engagement strategies used during lockdown could be brought back to raise engagement levels.”

“some recent initiatives i have been exposed to: CSR initiatives – Netflix movie night, online coffee vouchers, networking roulette – where you are matched randomly with a colleague in the organisation”

“Engagement will be critical in the war for talent, but there is more than engagement that is needed. Employers need to understand why their staff want to come to work.”

Forms response chart. Question title: 8. How far do you think managers are aware of their staff's wellbeing?. Number of responses: 123 responses.

Selected Comments

“Don’t think they take time for their own wellbeing”

“Although we are making progress, I feel leaders are scared to ask direct questions about people’s wellbeing. Stigma around mental health is still a problem & I don’t think leaders know how to stay a conversation or know where to deal with a conversation if a person shares they are having a hard time.”

“Totally depends on how much each leader values wellbeing vs just business results”

Forms response chart. Question title: 9. How far do you think managers are equipped to manage conversations re- their staff's wellbeing. Number of responses: 123 responses.

Selected Comments

“As I’ve said above, more training & understanding on mental health in the workplace is needed, policy’s need to be updated to reflect care for people’s mental wellbeing in the workplace instead of just physical health. We need to start opening talking about mental health and the impact it can have. Share support that is offered & create an open, honest environment where people feel like they can talk to leaders without fear of judgement.”

“I think there is a lot of scope in ensuring managers are well equipped, for some this may be natural but for many of them it may not be. Managers are key to unlock team/employee potential hence they should build capabilities to be able to coach and mentor their teams accordingly. Most of the time employees feel stress due to workload – poor prioritisation and miscommunication.”

“Organisations are making it easier for managers through the provision of 3rd party support / programmes – so easier to offer information; support and referral. Still lots to go for in terms of EQ development – too many leaders still adopting an avoidance tactic for fear of getting it wrong.”

“Managers are not trained properly in effective leadership, the people in management roles are usually there because they have strong functional skills and not people/ leadership skills”

Leaders now need to not only engage but to inspire their people.

Alastair Lechler, Partner

Leaders set the tone for team culture. It is their responsibility to create a supportive, inclusive  environment for people to thrive.

We are facing some hugely turbulent and uncertain times. Leaders do not and should not claim to have all the answers. Integrity and honesty foster trust and while having a vision is key – knowing the exact route to get there is not.

Innovation is the ability to see change as an opportunity not a threat” – Steve Jobs 

Technology is advancing faster than ever before. Leaders must embrace ambiguity and constantly challenge the status quo.

Leaders who adapt fast will succeed themselves, but also help their employees, teams and organizations succeed as well.