Since all conversations inevitably gravitate towards COVID-19 nowadays, during a session with a few folks I mentor, an interesting query on distilling the essence of all that we hear, read and see into a leadership compendium sprung me into action. Based on my own research & hard thinking, this is the list I came up with:
Over-communicate: During times like these, when the 'new normal' is changing daily, it is extremely important to not just communicate but over-communicate. People need information. People need empathy. So, apart from sharing information on the daily situation, asking your team how they are doing and offering to help in any way you can will go a long way towards removing loneliness and confusion that can set in very quickly during times like these.
Agility: The situation is rapidly changing, and the responses must be equal to, or superior to, the queries / challenges thrown at you. The solution can crop up in fits & starts, not in a steady, straightforward manner. Make the most of the information available at that point in time and decide quickly. Take it by the day or the hour.
Mental health: A pandemic can quickly set you off on a relentless spiral of negative thinking. Physical health can be measured but mental health cannot be measured. Hence, it is essential, rather imperative, to focus on going inside your own self every morning, choosing whatever method (yoga, music, favorite hobby, meditation, moments of silence, a cup of coffee in solitude) works best for you. Conquest of the inner self is a pre-requisite for conquest of the outer world.
Empathy: Even as we see automation and digital transformation all around us, the need for core human skills such as empathy and emotional IQ has not been felt as acutely before. Even as teams are physically and socially distanced, it is very important to leverage technology to make them feel digitally and emotionally connected. While calibrating themselves to the new normal, a lot of people need emotional support and empathy. The care you demonstrate at this point of time is something your team will remember. You win them or lose them by demonstrating empathy or a lack of it.
Humility: COVID-19 has led to the disruption of planned business initiatives. Today, it is not about “know it all” but “learn it all”. The onus is on leaders to demonstrate humility in their demeanor. This is not to be confused with displaying your vulnerability in front of the team. Rather, it is about welcoming ideas and information from all quarters so that everyone is eager to contribute and all are aligned to the fact that the daily discovery process will show the path forward.
Relearning: Any pandemic paves the way for a permanent new normal. The leader has to lead from the front in terms of demonstrating that relearning & reskilling is the way forward. Good leaders inevitably capitalize on such situations by strengthening their skills - actions speak louder than words when it comes to generating a domino effect on the team.
Urgency: Important to get this right without crossing the line into the zone of panic. A strong bias for action while demonstrating a calm demeanor is the right recipe. An example I keep highlighting is how doctors approach patients in the ICU ward (rather than the OPD ward) but by demonstrating competence & care and not by pressing the panic button!
Trust & transparency: People repose utmost trust in leaders during such times. It is very important for the leader to display trust and transparency in all his / her actions & words. No holding back bad news – it sets folks faster on to the recovery path. Also, no micromanagement – trust the team. Trust is a 2-way street – the more you give, the more you get.
As Fred Rogers said, "Often when you think you're at the end of something, you're at the beginning of something else." All the best as you skillfully steer your teams through the pandemic!"