Good leadership is necessary for any successful company, no matter what circumstances surround your business. But in times of crisis it becomes even more important. How your company weathers this crisis may have lasting effects for years to come.
Leadership requires focus, commitment and dedication even during times of prosperity and growth. These qualities are obviously even more critical when the environment becomes more challenging. Say, during a global pandemic. Or perhaps, a world war. In some cases, a crisis can bring out the best in a leader. Consider how Winston Churchill was able to inspire the British during a pivotal moment in history. Or perhaps how someone at your company stepped up during this time.
Having a good leader in place is critical in managing the current crisis. Not only must you cope with the standard business requirements, but now leaders are facing a whole host of new challenges. The health and safety of staff is obviously a critical issue that may have been taken for granted in the past, for example. Supply chains are another area that may require more attention than previously. And of course, the disruptions in operations because of quarantine restrictions are another unexpected issue leaders have faced this year.
According to an article from McKinsey, “The COVID-19 crisis is proving to be a revealing test of leadership. Emerging from it strengthened, compassionate, confident, forward looking, and successful will be those leaders who can cope with the extraordinary personal and professional challenges. They will be the ones who know themselves the best and can respond to the many challenges. Unlike in Greek mythology, there is no external deity who will fly to the rescue. But embracing and adopting a set of thoughtful, tested, and far-sighted microhabits can be a recipe for both business success and personal well-being. Not all of these ways of working will endure once the crisis has abated, but new habits that prove effective in the heat of the crisis can stick—and help CEOs become better leaders.”
The pandemic acts as a trial by fire, testing the mettle of leaders in many different industries. The difficulties extend around the globe, in almost every field. No company or industry is immune, but there are ways to cope with the obstacles presented now.
“In environments marked by high levels of unpredictable change, the single most important action organizations can take is clarity of purpose and actionable priorities,” writes Gregg Kober in an article for Harvard Business. “If the firm’s strategy is changing, explain why and outline how the strategy differs from what the organization has pursued before. If the strategy is staying the same, communicate the top priorities. One particular company I work with was very clear that their existing strategy of customer intimacy was NOT changing. However, the company’s operating model had to adjust, which meant that certain skills in supply chain management, data analytics, and digital acumen became much more important to executing on customer intimacy at scale than they had been before.”
These ideas are sound, but it may seem difficult to implement. How to go about doing all of this? Of course, there’s no one right way to get through a crisis, and you have to decide what works best for your organization. But there are a few suggestions that may help.
Deloitte offers this guide to leadership during this crisis: “We believe there are five fundamental qualities of resilient leadership that distinguish successful CEOs as they guide their enterprises through the Covid-19 crisis:
- Design from the heart … and the head.
- Put the mission first.
- Aim for speed over elegance.
- Own the narrative.
- Embrace the long view.”
The article goes on to say, “We believe that a typical crisis plays out over three time frames: respond, in which a company deals with the present situation and manages continuity; recover, during which a company learns and emerges stronger; and thrive, where the company prepares for and shapes the ‘next normal.’”
Whether it’s the next normal, the new normal, or just the longed-for normal of everything going back to the way things were, leaders are needed all along the way.
When things will become more normal is the million-dollar question. We all hope it will be soon, and a return to favorite activities and events will be swift. But no matter when things turn around, and some semblance of normalcy returns, having a good leader in place is not something to be taken for granted.
As Jason Nazar writes in his article for Fast Company, “When we will emerge from this current crisis is uncertain, but based on my experience one thing remains true. We all rely on leaders to thoughtfully navigate choppy waters with resolve and strength. The long-term implications of the restrictions caused by the pandemic may alter our mindset and fundamental values permanently.”