Six Business Lessons CEOs Need To Unlearn

In the post-pandemic world, shedding old and outdated beliefs will be critical for organizations to move forward.

Covid tested the resilience of supply chains, business models, HR management practices, IT systems and governance structures of organizations across the world. It also tested nerves, character and empathetic depth of business leaders. The experience of the tragedy—the challenges, struggles, coping—all have offered plenty of learnings. While these learnings have largely been documented and shared, organizations are also realizing that they need to shed some old beliefs, practices, learned patterns, mindsets and legacies. As the scourge of the pandemic is on the wane, it is equally critical, like the learnings, that businesses and their captains take these un-learnings as part of fresh wisdom.

Here are six past lessons CEOs may like or need to un-learn to sustain their businesses, and thrive, professionally and personally, in a post-pandemic world.

#1. People must come to the office to work.

Thanks to the pandemic, one tectonic shift that has happened to the legacy thinking of organizations is that work cannot be executed without employees being in office physically. Now almost all kinds of businesses and their CEOs, have adjusted to the new reality that it is okay to have people work from home or, for that matter, from anywhere in the world. The things that were done physically can be done virtually.

#2. Profit first—employee wellbeing and benefits, second.

Organizations are realizing that though profit is important it is not primary. Employee well-being is now being seen pivotal in increasing business productivity. Studies reveal that social and emotional intelligence are heightened when employees are in a better mood, which has implications for work. Collective atmosphere giving a sense of agency, recognition, flexibility, and appreciation to employees not only help retention of talent, reduce fresh hiring and training cost but boost productivity and bottom lines as well.

#3. The Boss is the Boss & the Boss is always right.

This belief is fast losing its sheen and relevance. The pandemic has made arrogant bosses mellow. A realization has dawned upon business leaders that age, position, or experience should not matter or deter in the way of acceptance of ideas, suggestions and support. Not surprising, an open and feedback-friendly business culture is being appreciated and encouraged, and non-hierarchical structures are being designed.

#4. Being busy is a mark of success.

For long, business executives have worn this tag of busyness as mantle of honor. But successful business heads are now focusing on fewer but more meaningful and bolder things, by better prioritization. They are saying no to less important meetings and matters. Multi-tasking, or task-switching, that leaves them fatigued at cognitive and emotional levels, are no longer seen as hot qualities. Placing importance on healthy relationship with digital gadgets, CEOs are taking breaks and pauses. A new narrative is gaining ground that it is time to reclaim life out of crazy busyness.

#5. More is always desirable.

The pandemic has upended this ingrained belief. CEOs are discovering that even less is more when the less is of value and purpose. Doing less can yield more provided businesses pass the test of value creation. This can be achieved by focusing on a few value drivers, like making the organization rewarding for employees in terms of purpose and agency, enhancing customer experiences, fostering diversity with inclusiveness, innovation, showing care for society and planet, etc.

#6. Positional power is everything.

The recent past has been a humbling experience for many CEOs who may have realized that, like everybody else, they are helpless against many forces of nature. A job or position, with attendant trappings, may be attractive but is not everything. Life is much larger than career and they need to cultivate personal power as well. Sense of wonder, calmness, gentleness, humility, empathy and engaging in creative pursuits could be some traits that can not only enrich their professional career but also would come handy when they retire. The pandemic has also reinforced a fresh learning that they ought to consciously put themselves in the shoes of others to evolve as a better business leader and a good human being, and not merely pose as an authoritative figure.


  • Get the CEO Briefing

    Sign up today to get weekly access to the latest issues affecting CEOs in every industry
  • upcoming events