How has Covid-19 affected Management and Leadership?

Written by Simon Willicombe, Team Manager at Itec Skills & Employment.

It’s coming up to nearly two years since the Prime minister announced the first lockdown, ordering people to “stay at home” and forcing non-essential businesses and schools to shut their doors and work from home.  This sent shockwaves through the business world, posing questions on how this could be achieved and successfully implemented in just 3 days. Along with the technical and logistical challenge, huge pressure and uncertainty were posed on leaders and their teams.  Managers desperate to have strategic and operational plans to follow turned to their disaster recovery plans often to find no solution.  So, what did they do?  adapt, and evolve, stretching and challenging their Leadership skills.

Managers V Leaders

These two words are often used together and interchanged, with many believing that that they are the same thing, the last two years have highlighted many key differences.  Once, traditional strong managers may have failed due to the lack of robust plans and uncertainty brought about by the pandemic.  Managers thrive on achieving organisational goals and targets by implementing processes, focusing on delivering results through systems and structures and generally maintaining performance.  All this was made nearly impossible with lockdowns being extended and rules and guidelines changing every few weeks.

On the other hand, Leaders have thrived drawing upon their ability to innovate, motivate and inspire their teams to succeed.  Leaders are more concerned about aligning people and influencing them rather than organising them.  Leadership is centred around creating a vision and guiding change and thinking ahead looking to capitalise on opportunities that may emerge.  The recent pandemic has shown us the importance of the people and the important role that everyone in the team must play.  Leaders excelled here due to their emotional intelligence, being able to empathise and show understanding has allowed them to better understand their teams and understand what drives and motivates them. This wide understanding allows them to have a greater knowledge of themselves and their teams, often allowing them to influence decisions to get the best results and drive overall performance.

It is not simply a case of being either a manager or a Leader, being effective in your role requires a combination of both and the key to success is understanding when and how to be the right one.  The pandemic has highlighted a real need for people to gain a better understanding of a variety of differences between the two and the importance of investing time to develop your skills as a Leader as well as a manager.


The shift to remote working happened at such a rate that no one really had the opportunity to plan for it or consider the impact it would have on the business, productivity, or the team’s wellbeing. Maybe this was the key to success and not trying to overcomplicate the plan.  I’m sure many businesses faced a lot of challenges and there are some horror stories, but overall, the shift for many was smooth and the impact minimal.

This shift has brought about a series of new challenges:

  • Communication

Whilst technology has enabled us to keep connected and advances in video conferencing and collaborative digital tools have meant we can conduct business seamlessly anywhere in the world, understanding when, how and how often we need to or should contact remote teams has become a challenge. There is a real danger that we spend too much time on Zoom / Teams meetings, leading to fatigue. There Is also a danger that we spend too much time in meetings or coordinating activities that you don’t get any work done.  The key to effective communication is have a system that everyone agrees and sticks to. For example, we hold a short meeting every morning where everyone spends 90 seconds to 2 minutes covering what they did yesterday, what they are doing today and what help they need. This is often enough to give you an overview of what is going on as a manager and importantly what support the team may need.

  • Decision making and goal setting

In a normal working environment this is something that occurs quite naturally. People are aware of conversations and activities that are happening around them, and they are often involved or have an input in the process.  The shift to remote working has removed much of this and opens new Management and Leadership challenges. Adapting or making small changes to the decision process often leads to greater results.  Taking additional time to involve key decision makers in the process ensures that everyone is clear of what needs to be achieved.  Spending a little longer than normal on this can elevate any confusion and misunderstanding and reduce the chance of errors being made. “Slower decision-making leads to faster actions”.

  • Avoid Micromanaging

Under normal working conditions you wouldn’t be looking over you teams’ shoulders, double checking everything they did, logging every key stroke or double checking every activity, why should remote working be any different.  Agree a working pattern and arrangement, have regular one to one session, clear and concise communication channel, ensure teams have a mechanism to feedback, ensure your visible and know that you are available to support.  Let their achievements reflect in the performance.  Trust and autonomy can be a powerful motivator.

Remote working has led to many Managers and Leaders being forced to reflect on their skills and develop new ways of working and delivering results through their team.

Managers V Coaches

Much like ‘managers v Leaders’ there are both similarities and key differences between the two and knowing and understanding when to adopt which approach has been more important than ever with the shift to remote worming.  We have already established the role of a manager but how does a coach differ?  Much like a leader, a coach is more Intune with people and are concerned with improving employee’s engagement and in tern improving their performance.  They are concerned with the long-term development of an individual involving them in the decision-making process and engage them in conversation, a coach focuses on growing an individual.  With the shift to remote working, coaching has become more important than ever.

The Key to successful Management and Leadership is to know when to Manage, Lead and Coach.  Covid-19 has highlighted several short falls in managers ability to do this and their ability to adapt to situations.  Personal and team development is paramount to the success of any business, and it may simply be that managers have never had the training, support, or guidance to manage and lead their teams effectively.

How can a Leadership and Management apprenticeship help?

One of the biggest advantages of work-based learning is the ability to see side by side how what you learn in theory can be implemented into practice. It also allows you to demonstrate your knowledge and understanding of a topic through a combination of knowledge-based answers and practical real-world examples.

Not only will you gain a valuable insight into Leadership, Management and Motivational Theories and Models, you will be able to draw upon the support and guidance of your assessor who has a wealth of experience in the field.  The modular approach to the course allows you to select units that target your development needs, and that will challenge you and enhance your overall Leadership and management skills.  This will not only give you the tools and skills to be a better Manager, but you will also receive an accredited and recognised qualification.