Crises reveal the extraordinary traits of ordinary people. They have a unique way of unveiling the strengths and weaknesses of leaders, recalibrating the meaning and essence of leadership. As the coronavirus continues to threaten the economy and health of everyone across the globe, the leaders in different fields struggle against the many forces that threaten the stability of their turf.
Inevitably, the pandemic has changed the context and meaning of leadership. The standards that used to define power and authority become irrelevant, and the human hierarchy is meaningless. The new breed of today’s leaders include healthcare workers (doctors, nurses, and other frontliners who are braving their way to take care of the sick and afflicted), the CEOs and managers who keep the companies going, and the officials or ordinary people who become the new faces of courage.
The new model of leadership
Across the globe, we are witnessing the gradual collapse of the standard model of leadership, which is based on hierarchy, control, and command. This model was about putting people in boxes, creating barriers and limitations, and protecting the organisation or the establishment. Everything became predictable.
The pandemic has changed the essence of leadership, revealing urgency and authenticity that reflects the feelings and thoughts of humanity. The lack of readiness, lack of will, many limitations, and false confidence of many leaders opened our eyes. Titles became meaningless, prompting the leaders to validate their authority by conforming to the ‘new normal’ and adapting a resilient and supportive type of leadership.
The time for courageous leadership
Leadership today is about being courageous and compassionate about the plight of others. It means taking a stand to fight for the right and just. It is about taking prompt and purposeful actions to address immediate problems, preventing more serious long-term predicaments that may hurt the whole organisation.
Courageous leaders break down barriers, giving people the freedom to elevate their own capacity in personal and professional aspects. It means empowering individuals and building a new system that includes a work-from-home, socially-distanced physical environment, and a blended setting to keep everyone safe. It means leading from the front and exhibiting the right behavior and values they expect to see from their teams.
The time to reinvent and adopt new strategies
This is the moment of massive reset and shifts. Change hastens the course-correcting motions and redefines leadership. The pandemic lets us witness the collapse of ideology where secrecy, pretending to know the answers or playing the part, was regarded as strength. At the same time, vulnerability, transparency, or being real was a weakness. All nations, corporations, institutions, and organisations reinvent themselves, with the leaders trying to cope with the ‘new normal.’
The time to lead with boldness and agility
Pandemic puts more pressure on leaders as businesses lose tremendous revenue, resulting in the unemployment of a fraction of the workforce and the potential recession in the years to come. But more than financial damage, leaders are fearful about the safety of their employees, who treat their jobs as their anchors and source of security. They are pressured to secure a continuous supply of essential goods and services and keep their companies afloat.
Indeed, the pandemic is a real test of leadership. It requires the ability to change work schedules and plans to make up for the lost time and adapt to the new work setting. Leaders must devise strategic plans and keep the working ones from falling apart.
The time for humility and listening to others’ opinions
Remember the famous cliché, “No man is an island”? The essence of this statement at this time of crisis is very real and powerful. Leaders who were once untouchable or high and mighty are not immune from the deadly virus. Many officials and people in authority experienced the symptoms and had to fight to survive. Pandemic teaches leaders to be humble and listen to experts’ opinions. In this time of crisis, they have to rely on the decision of others because what is happening is beyond their area of expertise.
The time for clear and transparent communication
Executives and leaders should communicate with their stakeholders and employees regularly, explaining the protocols and safety measures to keep everyone safe. With modern technology, misinformation spreads fast, and they need to communicate directly with people under their wings to clear issues. People are already nervous and stressed about the implications of the virus, so it is essential to keep them well-informed and engaged. It is the period to be more compassionate and supportive of the individual and collective concerns of workers.
The challenge to keep the business or organisation running effectively
Until the pandemic is over, the prime concern of leaders is to keep the employees, and their families safe from the virus. Remote work becomes the best alternative to keep everyone safe, prompting executives to invest in modern technology to sustain collaborative work.
The challenge to keep everyone productive, active, and motivated in the absence of face-to-face collaboration and the physical environment are amongst the immediate concerns of leaders. It requires regular monitoring and engagement to ensure 100% productivity of employees. According to studies, working remotely can decrease the workers’ performance because a lot of them thrive on the office culture. To mitigate this issue, managers and team leaders need to translate that culture to the virtual setting to inspire and motivate their staff.
The necessity to build personal resilience
During this crisis, leaders need to be resilient to become effective mentors, motivators, and decision-makers. They need physical, mental, emotional, and psychological fortitude to go through the phases of the pandemic. They need to become the force that keeps the whole team motivated, positive, and productive.
With the ‘new normal,’ resilient leaders respond immediately and are willing to adjust to the circumstances that impact the organisation’s culture and climate. They learn to vary their leadership styles to adapt to the extraordinary challenges of the pandemic.
The pandemic unmasks the next generation of leaders and elevates the meaning of leadership. They are the ones who see the silver lining through and beyond the coronavirus crisis, working on opportunities to provide value to the organization and contribute to the welfare of the people working with them. They are leaders we need today and in the future.