The coronavirus is turning out to be a critical leadership stress test. It has challenged virtually every contingency plan and risk mitigation strategy that leaders have ever envisioned.
Even now, as they prioritize speed and agility over elegance in this time of severe disruption, they need strategies that drive action and inspire followers.
When the whole world has changed, employees need steady leadership most – but that’s also when it’s most difficult to lead. Below are a few professional recommendations that can help:
1.) EMPLOYEES NEED TRUST AND COMPASSION: BE PRESENT, EVEN WHEN YOU’RE DISTANT
In some countries and in certain industries, most employees work remotely, even before the pandemic. Today, many more industries and countries have adopted this idea. Demonstrating care and compassion may require leaders to communicate authentically via video addresses.
It goes to show you don’t have to be in the building to be visible and show a strong leadership presence. Carefully craft your leadership narrative to share your optimism and hope. All interested parties – workers, customers, suppliers and partners – need to know what you are doing to face challenges, especially as social distancing increases, to face their own.
Managers are your prime conduits of culture and information and the catalysts of employee performance. And they need your compassion and help more than ever.
2.) EMPLOYEES NEED STABILITY: PRIORITIZE WELLBEING AMID DISRUPTION
Some businesses have acted with laudable swiftness to keep their employees physically safe, but people’s financial, social, community and career wellbeing are all in some danger. Indeed, the level of job insecurity has risen since the pandemic. Many have lost their job and are in the midst of wild uncertainty. However, knowing their jobs are safe and their welfare is prioritized, leadership will become easier. Carefully craft your leadership narrative to share your optimism and hope.
3.) EMPLOYEES NEED HOPE: ANCHOR TO YOUR “TRUE NORTH”
On March 15, the fashion and perfume retailer LVMH instructed three of their factories to stop producing their iconic perfume brands like Christian Dior and Givenchy and start making hand sanitizer, which will be delivered free of charge to French health agencies and the largest hospital system in Europe. And LVMH is not alone. Leaders at many organizations are using their resources to help drive the response to this pandemic.
Those companies are defeating the disease with their own unique purpose. By doing what only they can do, they’re saving the lives of their fellow citizens. What was a job a month ago is a calling today.
Like the leaders of those companies, find your calling to show your hope for the future and inspire it in your employees. Keep your team and your company anchored toward what truly endures – your purpose and your values. Your organization doesn’t have to create the materials to combat disease, your support, care and an empathetic response to customers and workers can be more than enough.
Someday, leaders will have time to identify what they wish they’d known or done or had before the world changed. Today is not that day. But keep notes. Pay attention to the outcomes of your decisions, and learn how other leaders are dealing with uncertainty, unforeseen circumstances, even failure.
There is no playbook for a pandemic. But the global business community’s incredibly agile, humanistic, unified response is a near-miracle. There are valuable lessons to learn that should not go to waste – but that’s for tomorrow. Today is for protecting your employees’ well-being, focusing on your managers and leading with purpose.