I don’t think any businesses are going to make it through this coronavirus pandemic unscathed. Perhaps the national lockdown will see you closing your doors for a few weeks. Maybe the nature of your work means that some of your employees can successfully work from home but chances are that some team members of your team cannot. And it’s inevitable that many of us will get sick.
It is during times like these when leadership is so important. I really do believe it is these moments that define you as a leader. And right now, a good leader is one who takes the time to understand the needs of their followers. If you read Tom Rath and Barry Conchie’s book, Strengths Based Leadership: Great Leaders, Teams, and Why People Follow, you’ll quickly realise how easy it is for leaders to misunderstand what their followers need. The book outlines that this mismatch is exacerbated by the fact that what leaders get paid to do often differs from what followers need them to do.
If you ask Rath, Conchie and a Gallup research team- who surveyed over 10 000 followers around how the most influential leaders contribute to their lives- what followers need, the answer is trust, compassion, stability and hope.
In these defining moments, it’s critical that your people are able to trust you and feel confident that you will look after their well-being. As I mentioned earlier, I don’t think any businesses will survive this coronavirus chaos totally unscathed. And it can be hard to see the people side of things when you’re so focussed on how all of this is affecting the business’ bottom line. But true leaders will have compassion for their followers and will be sympathetic; understanding that their teams are going through something too.
In addition to all this, leaders need to remember that everyone is scared. None of us know what is going to happen or how all of this will play out. During trying times, good leaders must constantly reassure their teams that the business will come out on the other side. This gives them a sense of stability. During times of incredible doubt, you must constantly communicate with everyone and be open and honest about the situation. Tell them that it’s likely that the business, and the global economy, will experience a slight dip in the next few months, but stress that if everyone keeps working together, the business will be okay. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, leaders need to consistently communicate a message of hope.
Barack Obama once described hope as: “that stubborn thing inside us that insists, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us so long as we have the courage to keep reaching”. Nobody knows when all of this will “end”, having hope demands that we keep working together and fighting to get through it.
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