The Challenges of Being a Leader During COVID-19
Deloitte is a top global provider of audit and assurance, consulting, financial advisory, risk advisory, tax, and related services. In one of their recent article, they explained what leaders are currently experiencing. The definition of “uncertain times” has drastically changed for leaders, as there is no reference case for the COVID-19 crisis in living memory. Compared to everything leaders have experienced or even contemplated up to this point, the COVID-19 pandemic is more global in scope, more profoundly impactful and far-reaching, and more complex. These extreme circumstances are truly testing leaders and bringing them out of their comfort zones.
Typically, leaders create visions, plans and metrics to attempt to control their environments and minimize uncertainty as best they can. In a crisis, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, these extreme levels of uncertainty may cause many leaders to default to what they know how to do in order to reduce frustration and fear. However, default mode not only reduces productivity, but it can actually further increase uncertainty and anxiety. The only way to properly lead through times of frequent change and uncertainty, is to embrace it.
How to Embrace Change and Uncertainty
Jack McGuinness is co-founder and managing partner of Relationship Impact, a consulting firm focused on helping great leaders build great leadership teams. In an article he wrote for Chief Executive, he gives the following tips on how leaders can truly embrace change and uncertainty.
- Be Positive and Humble: Acknowledge your fears about the unknown and make it clear that you don’t have all the answers. However, be reassuring and calm when you state that everyone has the capability to work smart and hard and that the organization will get through the crisis. By reinforcing and modeling positive humility, leaders will have established a tone for their leadership teams to cascade throughout their organizations.
- Be Transparent: Proactively communicating difficult information is one of the most important steps a leader can take during a crisis. Be a source for accurate, unbiased information and be honest when you don’t have the exact answer to someone’s question. Stating you will do everything you can to figure out the answer is always better than giving a false or inaccurate response.
- Remember Engagement: Your supervisors and managers, as well as yourself need to be present and encourage engagement. Make expectations clear and always over communicate. It is a good idea to use multiple channels to remain in contact both formally and informally. Examples include virtual team meetings, daily virtual check-ins, virtual happy hours, random watercooler calls, etc.
- Focus on the Mission: Regardless of the situation, never lose focus of your organization’s main mission. Reiterating the mission gives everyone a purpose and something to believe in. Make it known that today’s plans could change tomorrow, next week or next month. However, everyone will be learning from mistakes and working together to adapt to the uncertainty.
- Be Patient: The stress and anxiety caused by a crisis can often exemplify certain characteristics. It is important for leaders to work hard to have patience with their teams by giving space, not overreacting themselves and providing gentle feedback.
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