The COVID-19 crisis has hampered the aim and vision of businesses on a large scale. Looking at the effects that the pandemic has had, especially on businesses and its employees — it will require strong leadership initiatives to overcome the crisis.
Leadership during COVID-19 is a challenging situation — it is a test of how organizations respond and lead the pack as it defines their fate in the long run.
There was never a better time to unlearn, learn, and grow than provided by the current global crisis. — A global IT Services Company CXO
This level of the crisis has probably never been faced by your business; hence it would require stringent actions to control its effects and ensure business continuity in this chaotic situation.
To begin with — draft a list that prioritizes your next steps forward. Though many challenges might seem to be intersecting, a pragmatic approach towards the impending concerns will help make a difference.
Here’s how you can reinvent and redefine leadership during a crisis and manage to stay afloat.
Leadership During COVID-19: A Fresh Perspective
When a business is struck with a crisis, it takes tough decision-making and strategic planning to respond in the interest of the employees, customers, and, in turn, the overall organization.
Here are the five key strategies that leaders can follow — reflecting Newton’s first law of motion — a business can only start to move in the right direction when it gets the leadership push.
1. Acceptance & Attitude
Accepting that the COVID-19 crisis is going to impact your business operations is the first step towards finding a way out. The pandemic might have originated in China, but its spread has led to severe effects on vast geographies, population, and businesses around the world.
Accepting the reality and moving on to evaluate it with the right outlook can help in coming up with effective continuity strategies well ahead of time.
Your attitude towards the problem should reflect — confidence and risk-taking ability.
All the save the world movies that showcase all kinds of apocalypses have one thing in common — the protagonist never gives up on the hope of making it through. He takes risks, saves lives, and navigates people towards their new normal. The same zeal is required in this real-world COVID-19 storyline.
Here’s what will help:
- Detach from the emotional connection with your futuristic plans.
- Plan for the present with the available resources and leave the future for tomorrow.
- Create a plan-ahead-team for making informed decisions.
- Communicate with the workforce and assure them of your support.
2. Communication & Transparency
The role of leaders during a crisis — communicate at all levels. Let your workforce know that the current idea of work and the futuristic plans and strategies is going to hit a roadblock. They might be fearful, uncertain, and anxious in this time of crisis, and you need to bring clarity, hope, and confidence back.
They will look up to you for guidance, and rely on you as their financial stability depends on you. If you do not communicate honestly and frequently — false rumors might start doing the rounds, and you’ll lose their trust and confidence.
Instead, be their authentic source of information, and send out the message loud and clear — We are in this together!
Employers are expected to update information regularly on COVID-19, with 63 percent asking for daily updates, 20 percent wanting communications several times a day. — Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report on COVID-19
The right strategy would be:
- Be true to your workforce about how things are and how they might change in the coming times, i.e., operational changes, time offs, and overtime guidelines.
- If layoffs and furloughs are unavoidable, convey that ahead of time.
- Ensure that you are working on business continuity plans to make remote teams work.
- Most importantly, ask them what they need and how they are feeling. Being a good listener to what others feel & think will help restore their faith in the organization.
3. Organizing Plan-Ahead Teams
Responding effectively to the changing dynamics is where leadership qualities are put to the test. Organizations have had business continuity plans for familiar emergencies, but this time, the situation is different.
The crisis at hand is characterized by uncertainty, non-familiarity, and unpredictability.
So, leadership during COVID-19 would require you to appoint a plan-ahead team (diverse & inclusive) that works towards a common objective — keeping business operations running while ensuring everyone’s safety.
Teams outperform individual decision-makers 66% of the time, and decision making improves as team diversity increases. — Forbes
These are what the responsibilities of the plan-ahead team should include:
- Narrowing down on COVID-19 impact on your business and workforce.
- Devising a crisis management plan before the situation comes to a head.
- Looking for alternative business models — if remote work is out of the question.
- Drafting a pragmatic business continuity strategy — if remote work is possible.
- Looking at competitors and following their leadership example wherever needed.
- Continuing innovation as new realities evolve.
4. Balancing Between Immediate & Panic Responses
Waiting to act until the storm hits, is a mistake. But, so are panic responses. The right way would be to balance between the two, that is — implementing the agile management approach, but based on fool-proof strategies.
Here’s how you to counter the leadership challenges during COVID-19:
- Give precedence to the agile approach by — Creating Ideas — Implementing Ideas — Iterating Ideas. This way, you will be able to innovate through the process of change and as new realities emerge.
- Conduct surveys and welcome suggestions from junior and senior-level employees alike. This will help the organization take responsible actions based on ideas coming from people’s experiences.
- Ask for feedback on the practicality of the drafted ideas across management and employees to help detect loopholes in the strategies and fend away panic responses.
- Visit the top and bottom line of the generated ideas before implementing them. The decision-makers should anticipate the pros and cons of the ideas so that a well-informed decision can be taken (in a timely manner).
5. Showcasing Empathy — Reinforcing Altruism
COVID-19 is a human tragedy on a large scale. While some are fighting for their lives, sadly so, some have lost the battle already.
On the other side, businesses are being dissolved, unemployment is rising, and people are losing hope.
Global Workforce Could Lose $3.4 Trillion in Income This Year. — Statista
It is solely your leadership during this COVID-19 pandemic that can save the day by acting as a pillar of strength. Businesses have always been concerned about creating valuable customer experiences, but this is a critical time for creating positive employee experiences as well.
Here’s how to ensure that:
- Communicating frequently with your remote workforce and ensuring their well-being
- Giving a thought to the personal challenges that affect productivity, such as — anxiety, stress, hay-wired work-life balance, health issues, job insecurity, etc.
- Leveraging video communication applications for motivating, guiding, and lifting the spirits of your workforce.
- Ensuring self well-being too, and taking a break when it is most needed.
Leadership is a powerful position that demands special skills to master it. The role of leadership during COVID-19 is to make others feel secure and protected, even if the turn of events does not favor it.
The crisis has hit us hard, but there is always some room for hope and an opportunity for business leaders to learn to cope up better and maneuver their way towards overcoming the odds.
So, embrace your uncertainties, stay positive, communicate effectively & frequently, have a plan-ahead team, act immediately, avoid panic responses, and showcase empathy.
This holistic approach will lead you safely towards the new normal!