While many leaders around the world are struggling to figure out how to transition their companies to adjust to the harsh blows the crisis has dealt the global workforce, some leaders have managed to quickly come up with inspiring work-from-home policies, remote-friendly perks and benefits, and flexible work schedules.
Twitter’s CEO, Jack Dorsey, was one of the first to embrace the work-from-home model after the coronavirus pandemic hit the United States. As the virus spread from country to country, Jack decided to take things a step further and introduce a permanent, and mandatory, work-from-home policy. In addition to offering their workers the option to stay home, Twitter also announced additional support for parents, hourly, and contract workers — as well as an increase in workers’ work-from-home stipend. In the face of chaos and uncertainty, Jack Dorsey showed the world that he is an effective leader who was able to respond quickly and communicate his plans
One valuable lesson COVID-19 has taught us is the power of good leadership. As the virus spread like wildfire, leaders, both experienced and inexperienced, were forced to put on their thinking hats, leap into action and proffer solutions to minimise the potentially catastrophic effects of the global pandemic. There is a famous saying that goes, ‘real leaders are forged in crisis.’ When we take a critical look at the way global, national, and industry leaders have responded to the crisis, the aforementioned statement bears truth.
The role of leadership during critical and uncertain times is one of great significance. Leaders who can respond quickly, think outside the box, manage their teams, and communicate clearly and with empathy, tend to be more effective than others.
As we prepare to live out our new normal in the post-pandemic era, it’s important to highlight essential qualities every leader needs during times of crisis:
Lead with empathy
In a crisis, a leader needs to show empathy. Before you send out an email or respond to a direct message, put yourself in the shoes of the person you are communicating with. As you communicate changes to your business model, service disruptions and delays, acknowledge the impact those changes will have on your clients, customers, and employees. Harness the power of empathetic content marketing by sharing information that addresses people’s pain points, worries, and questions.
In the face of an unexpected crisis, people tend to lose their cool — they tend to focus too much on the problem to come up with viable solutions. Leaders must remain unflappable as they navigate their team members, employees, and clients through a crisis situation. Make decisions from a place of confusion or disconcertion can often lead to making the wrong choices.
Communicate clearly and effectively
Every leader must be skilled in the art of effective communication. In a crisis, delivering bad news is a difficult but necessary task that must be undertaken by leaders in any organization. Effective leaders are able to engage in two-way communication, convey important information via offline and online channels, and choose honesty and transparency at all times.
Lead with an open mind
Some crises can only be tackled with out-of-the-box thinking and creative direction. In April, when Nigeria imposed its first total lockdown on Lagos State, Ogun State and the FCT, many merchants were forced to close their doors and deal with a massive loss of revenue and sales. A month after the total lockdown was announced, Endeavor Entrepeneur GB Agboola (Founder & CEO, Flutterwave), rallied his team and built an e-commerce platform for new and existing clients. Flutterwave Store was the company’s creative response to the COVID-19 crisis — it was designed to provide small businesses with an online directory they could use to display their products and take online orders during the lockdown.
Lead with decisiveness
An important quality to look out for in any leader is the ability to make time-sensitive and appropriate decisions during a crisis. A decisive leader is able to effectively executive set goals and plans after performing ample research and exchanging ideas with key stakeholders and team members. In addition to making tough, but necessary decisions, decisive leaders take responsibility for their actions and be willing to be held accountable for the effect their decisions may have on the company, business, or country.
An effective leader must be a great listener. During a crisis, a leader will be inundated with differing opinions, suggestions and recommendations. Therefore, leaders need to be approachable, open to hearing different ideas, and be able to sift through multiple opinions to choose the best course of action. Great leaders must listen to understand and implement.
Lead with the future in mind
A period of adversity is unlikely to last forever. Effective leaders must be skilled in guiding their team members, clients, and citizens through difficult periods and leading them into the future. After a crisis passes, a leader will still be faced with the task of rebuilding and recovering what was lost. Great leaders can pioneer important transitions and ensure that no one is stuck in the past.
Challenging times train and equip us to successfully handle the curveballs life throws at us. The COVID-19 crisis has revealed the power of effective leadership; it also helped us differentiate between great and mediocre leaders. Every business, country, and institution needs effective and decisive leaders.
Contributed by Koromone Koroye