What leaders must know during a crisis?
The coronavirus pandemic has placed immense pressure on leaders globally. The enormous scale of the outbreak and its unpredictability made it challenging to respond. Recognizing that a company faces a crisis is the first step leaders must take upon which they should begin to set a response. But they cannot respond as they would in a routine emergency, by following plans that had been prepared in advance. During an unfamiliar crisis, leaders face problems that are peculiar and effective responses are mostly improvised. They include not just temporary moves (e.g. starting work-from-home), but also adjustments to ongoing business practices which can be beneficial even after the crisis have passed. What leaders need during a crisis are behaviors and mindsets that will help them look ahead and navigate this and all future crises.
According to Gemma D’Auria and Aaron De Smet, senior partners in McKinsey & Company, Global management consulting, organizing a network of teams can help to set clear priorities and empowering others to find and implement solutions that serve those priorities. They must gather information, devise solutions, put them into practice, and refine them as they go.
In crisis situations, a leader’s instinct might be to control information, providing it on a strictly need-to-know basis. Doing the opposite, being transparent, leaders would motivate people. Be clear what you know and what you don’t know. Frequent communication shows that leaders are following the situation and adjusting their responses as they learn more.
In typical emergencies, a leader's experience is very valuable. But in this sort of crisis, character and reasonable confidence is extremely important. Leaders must have the ability to think clearly and show confidence that the organization will do its best in this difficult situation while recognizing the uncertainty that lies ahead.
The strength and value of every company lie in people.
This fact is supported by a historic declaration signed in August 2019 by more than 200 CEOs in the Business Roundtable stating that shareholder value should no longer be their companies’ main objective. Companies should also support mankind and contribute to the welfare and security of the community and its economic, social, and environmental progress.
Another crucial part of the leader’s role is providing psychological safety so people can be able to grasp the new circumstances and share ideas, ask questions, show concerns without fear. It is an absolute priority to protect employees in challenging times. This is where leaders have the important task of making employees feel that they are being cared for and that the company respects and values them.
Communication shouldn’t stop once the crisis has passed. Being optimistic and realistic can have a powerful effect on employees and other stakeholders, motivating them to support the company’s recovery. The coronavirus pandemic consequences could present greater difficulties than anyone anticipates. True leaders will help establish behaviors and values that can support their organizations and communities during this crisis and prepare them for the next challenge.
Mia Zecevic, CEO Novaston: The leader has to be the pillar of the organization, the support for the employees. That person should possess adequate abilities, have ideas that bring innovation and progress, and influence others by example and attitude. It must be proactive, strict but fair. The leader gives an example by encouraging others to move forward. My favorite definition was given by Jim Rohn: “The challenge of leadership is to be strong, but not rude; be kind, but not weak; be bold, but not bully; be thoughtful, but not lazy; be humble, but not timid; be proud, but not arrogant; have humor, but without folly.”
Dr Borislav Miljanović, Director of Represent System: When they talk about the crisis caused by Covid 19, everyone goes back in time. It will take us such number of years to get back to the previous level. For me, this is a "play forward" crisis. It showed us the future. As if someone fast forwarded a move we started watching for half an hour. And the main skill we have to develop is strategic thinking of our development. Where is our place in that future sequence of events in the film in which we live and play? We knew even before the crisis that there were also Netflix, food and drug delivery apps, Skype, and other meeting hosting apps. But now we have clearly seen what will happen in 2-3 years with us here in Serbia. Now we need to recognize where the space is in which we can develop and in which part of the field we can play. Being a leader in such difficult times is not easy, but they are much easier to recognize. Because when it is difficult, those who lead us must show all their empathy and their power for people to trust them. A leader must have a head, a heart and deft hands. The head to keep his vision intact, the heart to feel what people are afraid of and the hands to make quick and bold moves! Happy and successful is the company that has the right leader at the helm.
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