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Resilience, empathy and good communication: vital skills for managers

Executive Director of CEMS, Roland Siegers, said the traditional approach to leadership had in the past included a concrete set of skills that could be taught and learned.

“This research backs up the idea that in fact, fluid human skills such as resilience, empathy, communication and cultural intelligence are key to making sure that global teams thrive during times of disruption,” he said.

The research surveyed more than 1700 professionals around the world, including University of Sydney Business School alumni. It found that corporate employees were now more focused on communicating with their offshore colleagues than they were before the pandemic.

Adelaide Brokensha, 27, who graduated with a CEMS Master of Management from the University of Sydney last year said she has learned the importance of good communication. She needs to stay in touch with clients in Singapore and other countries as part of her role with a multinational technology company. She said her studies, which took her to Portugal and Zurich, where she did an internship, helped teach her resilience.

She described the CEMS program as being “a bit like a bootcamp”.

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“Being thrown into the deep end and forcing students and new graduates to have to find their way on their own is probably the best way that you will be taught resilience,” she said. “I was thrown into the deep end with very senior and successful people around me.”

She said the CEMS program helped her transition to working remotely “from studying at my parents’ place in Dover Heights, to my small/noisy apartment in Lisbon, to working in transit/airports when going to visit friends/family to finally working in the real world from the big ABB global headquarters in Zurich,” she said.

Working with colleagues who need to join meetings while their children are in the car on the way to school had also helped her to develop empathy.

The dean of the University of Sydney Business School Professor, Greg Whitwell, who is chair of CEMS, said that while the coronavirus pandemic had disrupted business at many organisations, it had also presented an opportunity to reassess the qualities that were of most value to businesses.

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“While the challenges of collaborating across time zones remain, effective leaders have proved adaptation is possible if they place quality over quantity when it comes to new ways of working,” he said.

Professor Whitwell said the survey results were similar to those from a study the Business School conducted, looking at the impact working with technology on the mental health of employees.

The CEMS survey found that strategic vision ranked as the most important leadership quality both before and after the pandemic.

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