Leadership through a crisis

Much is being written about the actions of leaders during a crisis, such as the one we’re currently living through, with a need to recognise the attributes of an effective leader.

Three interconnected qualities come to mind: awareness, agility and communication.

Awareness of what is happening internally in the company, externally in the community and more widely across the country and world. Those individuals who are leading their company in recognising that this is a different environment. That the old rules don’t apply, or need to be bent to enable continuation of core essentials.

Awareness that short-term gain is not the current focus. Cooperation, collegiality and focus on key deliverables that help society are important now and can enable a company to not only contribute now but could also act as a trigger for considering what the future could look like.

Agility in being able to lead their company in changing, updating, developing and adapting products, services and working practices to be relevant in the current market. Rapidly encouraging and leading change to meet the current need, not just of traditional customers, but the wider community. Think of manufacturing companies that have refocused their factories to produce PPE, firms with vehicles diverting them to transport essential items and R&D firms developing new products to help the fight against COVID-19.

Communication is always one of the most important roles of a leader, internally as well as externally. Communicating the actions of the company, its awareness of its position and contribution to society as it is now as well as in relation to employees, their families and the community. In times of crisis, too often leaders revert to driving to solutions, assuming that the final outcome will be sufficient in isolation. However, communication throughout ensures that all employees, customers and stakeholders are on the same journey, understand what the end goal is and what that journey looks like.

It’s been fascinating to see that some leaders who are traditionally in tune with the mood of the global community, or have been heralded as business champions, are now disconnected. Some are continuing to focus solely on financial returns and business profits, others are maintaining executive remuneration while furloughing staff, still others are continuing ‘business as usual’ with no recognition of the changing landscape or current requirements of business and society as a whole. It’s as if they have distanced themselves from what’s happening and are forcing a state of no change.

No doubt some leaders will emerge as the new champions in the future. Those that have successfully communicated, adapted and been cognisant of the wider need of their society.

Finally, as leaders consider the future strategy of their company, should this be approached as an adaptation of the existing strategy or a totally new page?

This blog is an extract from a longer article written by Sue Lawrence, Founder, Independent Directors & Trustees Limited that can be found on the company website at: www.independentdirectorsandtrustees.co.uk

Sue is author of the Institute’s recently published Board Committees Handbook, which you can buy here: https://www.icsa.org.uk/shop/books/board_committees_handbook and our upcoming Company Meetings Handbook, available for pre-order here: https://www.icsa.org.uk/shop/books/company_meetings_handbook

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