Leadership in the time of Coronavirus! Being a Leader can be more dramatic than a Gabriel García Márquez novel. At the moment I’m taking any number of calls from leaders struggling to make sense of these events, struggling in their role, and struggling with their personal fears, whatever they may be. This is the privilege of doing what I do, supporting the very top leaders and organisations around the world.
Leadership has many facets and right now we are all having to face one of the most challenging - leading in tough times. Uncertain times. Unprecedented times.
Yet these are the exact situations where we require extraordinary leadership. Yes, from our politicians and corporate leaders; yes, from our business and community leaders; but also, in times like these, each of us must show leadership for those around us, and ourselves. Each of us must be responsible for keeping our heads, staying positive and making sound decisions for the benefit of the majority. To my mind, that is what good leadership is about and this is the time we see the real leaders step up.
Since we are all leaders, and all of us are dealing with this coronavirus crisis together, here are some science based key tips on how we can step up.
1. Stay Calm
DO NOT PANIC! Whatever is still to come, this emergency will soon be over. Possibly as fast as it arrived and exploded. However, if we lose our mind amidst the mayhem, we won’t be here to enjoy the delightful quiet after the storm.
We need to think straighter than ever, making quick, effective and significant decisions that affect ourselves, our loved ones, employees, businesses and so on.
Unsurprisingly, science agrees that stress and decision-making don’t work well together (Atsan, 2016). So, take a deep breath, go for a walk and let the calmness drive your leadership.
2. Clear Communication
Don’t be afraid of delivering bad news. Ok, so I’m a straightforward, honest northerner, and often to my detriment, but in my experience, not addressing a problem almost invariably turns out to be much harder on the protagonists when the matter eventually pops up.
I remember in 2007 when the government delayed key CO2 legislation and I had to lay off 150 staff in my environmental services business. I have to be honest I was petrified! But the minute it was done, a cloud lifted, there was a shift and we could move forward again.
In trading markets, a slow and painful decline is called a ‘death by a thousand cuts.’ Rather than taking the worst on the chin, shifting that energy and moving forward. As I look back, I feel that each time I had to communicate bad news the reaction I imagined was probably about 100 times worse than it turned out to be in reality. So be confident!
Again, evidence shows that being assertive is fundamental to accomplishing great achievements and demonstrating value as Leader (April et al., 2019).
Gather your people and pass on the message loud and clear. Be very specific: show them data and prospect alternatives. Keep it short and sweet: make every word count. And listen: your people will have questions and fears, but they feel comforted when you show you’re there to hear their needs.
Most important: keep the channels open. Even if you’re all smart working from home, check in daily, schedule weekly KPI meetings and keep them posted with any relevant news.
3. Plan Long-Term
Ever thought what you could’ve done with just a bit more time? During a crisis good timing is decisive and it’s true we often need to act very rapidly. However, crises also create huge opportunities for perspective and long-term planning. Right now, this opportunity is even more tangible with many businesses effectively frozen through quarantine.
Use your time capsule wisely. Keep your eye on the ball and design your long-term tactics. Most of your competitors will be frozen and unable to think ahead. Plant the seeds of your future wealth: think of solutions that will make your business more efficient and more productive to ensure your future stability and security.
Goal setting is one of my favourite topics and research illustrates it can be critical for the success and productivity of your organisation (Lau et al., 2018)
4. Contagious Enthusiasm
As leaders, I firmly believe we have the responsibility to lead by example. More specifically, I believe we have a responsibility to spread our positivity, enthusiasm and passion faster than Covid-19!
Just as the clever lab wizards tell us how virulent epidemics are contagious, so too they prove that enthusiasm and positive thinking spread equally quickly (Walters, 2018)!
For sure our businesses will be back stronger, and our people need regular reminders of who’s driving the bus. Be present, available and visible to instil confidence and hope.
5. Emotional Intelligence
As we witness our employees as vulnerable, fearful people, with frustrations, problems and insecurities just like anyone else, now is exactly the time to be an emotional genius. Emotional Intelligence allows us to manage our emotions and empathise with others (Goleman, 1995).
Learning to listen deeply and respecting their feelings is a fabulous chance to demonstrate leadership (Maamari & Majdalani, 2017).
Care and show that you care: your people are your biggest asset.