To understand the implications that COVID-19 towards business and leadership, we recently conducted a series of interviews with C-suite business and HR leaders from around the globe. We found that leaders seem more intrinsically motivated to be visible, and have a heightened sense of responsibility and ownership. A common crisis is uniting organizations, and the overall business ecosystem that each organization operates in. One thing that echoed across all our discussions: leadership boundaries have been stretched overnight, and a focus on people and their well-being has markedly increased. All of these challenges are redefining the leadership narrative.
Employee well-being steps into focus
Surviving COVID-19 may be accompanied by tough business and employee decisions. Leaders must demonstrate the ability to lead with transparency and honesty. This is to uphold workforce morale at a time when employees are simultaneously worried about their jobs and their physical well-being.
It’s crucial for leaders to stay connected, addressing large and small groups with regular frequency. Here, embracing virtual tools—holding online all-hands meetings, posting YouTube videos, answering employee questions posed on bulletin boards—is key. Employees are hungering for communication from their leaders, and want that communication to be personal and authentic, vulnerable even. Trust is a two-way street. Just as employees need to have trust in their leaders, their leaders must have trust in them. Working from home is redefining work habits. Leaders need to demonstrate a higher level of trust and empowerment in their employees.
Re-imagining business strategy and business model
COVID-19 has disrupted demand and supply patterns. New regulations are emerging, and consumer behavior is rapidly evolving. While the degree and velocity of adaption will depend on the nature of industry, the dynamic forces are propelling leaders to rethink and reimagine their business model and immerse themselves in rapid scenario planning that covers the short, mid and long terms.
Being ambidextrous and making decisions in the challenging times
Now more than ever, leaders are required to navigate through the dilemma of decision-making under sky-high uncertainty and constrained resources. They’re grappling with the need to adopt digital technology wherever possible, to balance physical infrastructure with new demands placed on virtual infrastructure, and to understand shifts in consumer behavior that may or may not be permanent but nevertheless are certainly profound. Organizations know that they must emerge from the crisis with new products, new delivery systems, and new pricing models, and do so without undermining their financial performance.
Deeply connecting and aligning with the eco-system
Leaders are responding to this uncertainty and change with a heightened focus on collaboration, building new alliances both internally and throughout their overall external ecosystem. Our conversations with leaders revealed a sense that, in this time of crisis, “we’re all in this together.” There is more extensive collaboration with government, NGOs, transport systems, vendor-partners, clients, competitors and others than an organization may have experienced in the past. Having similar challenges and goals has promoted greater interest to exchange knowledge. Boundaries have dissolved.
Gearing up for the new normal
Leaders are being called upon to operate under extraordinary circumstances. So how can leaders gear up to meet both organizational and people needs in this time of crisis? It’s not always the first thing that comes to mind, but self-care is of paramount importance. In order to perform optimally, leaders need to actively invest in their personal physical and mental well-being. Take time for a workout, a bike ride with the kids, movie night with an old favorite.
It is also a time when leaders need to separate the wheat from chaff. They have to ruthlessly prioritize and be razor sharp with their time and energy to focus on few of the imperative agendas.
And finally, another priority that needs to fit into their calendar, is some time for reflection and investment in their own development. Depending on their personal preference they can read reports, articles, attend virtual sessions or engage in a peer discussion, their own axe needs to be further sharpened for the times ahead.
Do some of these resonate with your reality? Will be great to hear how you personally see the leadership narrative changing, and how you are supporting your leadership team as these changes come about.
Source: Harvard Business Publishing