Sunday, 29 March 2020
For the past decade we have all enjoyed a level of success and prosperity that has seldom been matched in our collective histories. To have led and succeeded during this period was less a testament to our abilities and more a testament to our good fortune. I don’t mean to understate the value of quality leadership, but candidly, you had to mess up pretty badly to have failed in this period.
But now we are individually and collectively facing a challenge that is literally unprecedented. This is no understatement in the face of the response that seems to be necessary for us to pass through this portal of time.
I think that it is fair to say that for those in leadership at this moment, your legacy will be defined on the basis of how you respond in crisis. Here are my recommendations.
1. Be present. Even when you don’t have all the answers, your teams are looking to you for optimism and inspiration. You must be present and available.
2. This is not the time for hyperbole; it is a time for humility. No one has all the answers and speculation only causes more confusion. Hope is a virtue, but false hope only disappoints.
3. This is not the time for empty rhetoric; it is a time for honesty and action.
4. This is not a time for sounding an alarm; that time has already passed. It is a time to respond to the alarm and trust those whose advice is based on the best scientific evidence.
5. We don’t need to hear how bad things are; dwelling on the obvious is for the historians. We need to hear how we are going to make things better; we need to be assured that the sun will follow the darkness.
6. We need inclusive strategies that offer purpose to everyone. Being part of the solution builds a sense of community and that will be critical in a successful recovery.
7. Leaders must have multiple strategies. There is the immediate; what are you doing during the crisis to survive. There is the transition time, how are you going to move from today to recovery as the disruptions are gradually lifted. And then there is the new normal. You need to determine how this crisis alters your business in the future. What changes are permanent; is there long term impact on your employees; with your customer base; with your supply chain. You need to be planning now and putting together different scenarios because none of us have any certainty what the future holds.
Right now, nothing is easy. But just because we don’t have all the answers doesn’t mean that we won’t. You must lead in a manner that demonstrates concern for the present; optimism for the transition and confidence for the future.
Lead acknowledging these truths and others will follow!