The issue of leadership in times of crisis has been brought into sharp focus as we come to grips with the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on our businesses and our lives.
Leadership is different to management.
- Management is about getting a job done effectively and efficiently. It’s about doing things right.
- Leadership is about vision, direction focus and motivation. It’s about doing the right things.
It’s leadership that creates passionate, focused and dedicated people in a business and therefore its leadership that will determine how your business emerges at the end. In many business, the issue of leadership is not formally dealt with at all. Now that the world is in a crisis and most businesses are all facing immense individual challenges, our crisis leadership is brought into stark focus.
Crisis Leadership Focus Points
When you stop and think about what’s important at a difficult time like this, where people are worried about their families, their health and their jobs, it’s easy to see that great leadership response is needed. In times of chaos and uncertainty you need to give people something to focus on, particularly if their actual workload is slowing, which in itself will cause uneasiness. They need something positive, a sense of purpose, that will keep their attention away from all the negatives and worries they are having. It could be skill improvement, planning tasks, or any number of other business improvement tasks that you may have on the backburner. Whatever it is, whatever you come up with, you need to make sure that there is something definite and valuable for them to focus on.
The second thing about leadership during times of crisis is that you need to be the most positive person in the room. There is no way around this. You just have to be. You have to be that leader that keeps everyone positive and keeps the morale up. Which means that you have to take whatever necessary steps to keep your head in the right place so that you can perform this part of the leadership job effectively.
The third thing that you need to be leading is the planning. You can’t just wait for things to get back to normal or wish things back to normal. There is no normal anymore and we are facing a completely new normal, whatever that might be. We will have at least 3 – 6 months of this, maybe more, so you have to have a plan. Not just a plan for how you are going to manage right now, which you’ve probably worked out, but a plan for how you are going to get through and emerge from this with your business intact and prepared for the unknowns of the future.
Your people are going to be turning to you. They are looking for a way through so you have to have a plan. You have to have something that you can share with them and be able to tell them what you are going to be doing and how you see it all working. That’s what a leader has to do.
4. Be the catalyst
This crisis has to and will come to an end at some point. The way businesses have been forced to change and adapt to get through this is going to have implications. Many have reinvented a lot of what they are doing, reduced their cost base, pivoted their offering and come up with innovative ways to make things work. So the fourth aspect of leadership in times of crisis is to be the person at the forefront of the change in your business. You have to be the catalyst in your business, the first one to embrace change. You need to show everyone that change is happening, by you doing new stuff, by you doing things differently. If they see you are willing to change they will too. If they see you are doing the same as before but are asking them to change don’t expect a result. You can’t expect a change if you are not doing things differently.
5. Keep abreast of developments
One other very important thing is for you to get on top of all the government announcements and initiatives. It’s constantly evolving and it’s being broadcast to everyone. Most of the stuff aimed at businesses needs action from the business itself even though it is aimed at employees. They need and will expect you to take action and communicate your actions to them. Stay on the front foot with this – it’s not hard to do and a bit of good news for all employees.
6. Keep yourself fresh and available.
The events that we are living through at the moment are not going to reverse and things are not going to revert to how they were before.So if you are thinking that you are just going to mark time and survive, I suggest you think again. We will be facing a changed world. The business environment we had going into 2020 will be very different after this has ended. This is like nothing anyone has ever had to deal with and it will profoundly change the world.
Our government leaders (and many other governments around the world) are taking unprecedented measures and committing the country to its largest ever debt to see us through this. That alone is going to have a huge impact that will take generation to recover from.
What is going to see you and your business and every other business out there through this is largely a function of leadership. The knowledge and understanding you gain about the new order of things, the decisions you make and the actions that you take.