The 12 skills leaders need to lead effectively through COVID
The COVID-19 pandemic has turned the world inside out and upside down and leaders have needed to step up and act quickly to find new ways of working and doing business. Although the future can be uncertain and unpredictable, there is one thing I know for sure –that is, the leaders who navigate with purpose, passion, humility and focus and on their people’s health and well-being will be the ones that will not only survive but thrive during these challenging times.
There are still too many leaders stuck in what I call the old style of leadership –one driven by authority and not influence, one driven by autocracy not democracy, and one where profit comes at the cost of people. This kind of behavior during a pandemic, or difficult and challenging times, will not only stifle creativity, innovation, and growth but it will also shine the spotlight on this outdated dysfunctional leadership style.
While some leaders may see this global pandemic as a major roadblock, I see it as an opportunity for organizations and leaders to rise up, embrace new thinking and progressive ideas, genuinely empower their people and encourage innovation. The leaders that have instilled strong values in their organizations, create environments of collaboration and trust and have put people at the heart, will be the ones that not just survive in these difficult and challenging times but thrive.
12 tips for leading in a pandemic:
1. Control the controllable
One of the critical roles of leaders is the ability to maintain focus on things that are in their control. When your attention is on the things that are out of your control, you can quickly become overwhelmed as well as stressed which can make you think more reactively and erratically, as opposed to staying crystal clear, intensely focused, calm, cool and collected. “Control the Controllable” has always been something I have tried to live by not only as a leader but also in my everyday life, particularly during difficult and challenging times.
2. Be fearless
Fearless leaders inspire others to become more fearless. They open others’ minds up to new possibilities and help people believe the impossible is possible. They are positive, resilient, bold and have self-belief. It is this fearlessness that allows leaders to lead a team with integrity, transparency, understanding, passion and purpose during turbulent times.
Fearless leaders go first and give first and put their own fears aside in order to step up, lead by the good example, do what’s right, and demonstrate strength of character.
3. Stay true to your values
Great leaders and great organizations always stay true to their values no matter how unpredictable and challenging the future looks. Values guide and provide us with an
inner compass and code of conduct to how we as leaders and organizations should behave, and when we stay true to these values, we make decisions with a strong sense of integrity, clarity and confidence that allow us to get through challenging times.
4. Share your vision
As a leader, sharing your vision is essential to inspire those around you and encourage them to focus on what matters most, what you want to accomplish and how you intend to get there, particularly in challenging times. When you communicate your company vision clearly and passionately you inspire, engage and motivate people to act with energy and purpose, bringing them together to work towards common goals not just for today and tomorrow, but for the long-term future of the organization and its people.
5. Empower those around you
Leaders often think when things go wrong or when times get tough, or when are hit with a global pandemic, they need to have all the answers and do all of the heavy lifting and problem solving. Great leadership is about empowering and believing in your team’s talents and expertise to problem solve in a collaborative way, and to truly listen and value their opinions, ideas and perspectives. Empower those around you to share their ideas and knowledge, be experts in their field and bring new thinking to the table.
6. Stay connected
During the pandemic we have seen much disruption to the way we work, some for the better and some for the worse. One of the most important things for a leader is to stay connected with theirs teams and keep their teams connected to each other whether that be with weekly video conferencing, regular phone catch ups or in person meetings where possible. It is important that people feel safe, supported, informed and focus on what’s important to navigate these challenging times.
7. Be personable
Being personable and approachable is more important than ever. People react differently to uncertain times and it’s imperative to check in on your team, have honest conversations about how they are feeling and be truly present. When leaders act in this way, it cascades throughout the organization. Ensure you have open lines of communication that are available to everyone in the organization, not just top tier management.
8. Stay positive
A leader’s attitude during challenging situations can be contagious. Great leaders stay positive and handle challenges with confidence, calmness and inspire others to do the same. A positive leader will look at challenging situations as an opportunity to learn and improve and to find new ways of doing things. They have the ability to immediately transform negativity with their optimistic enthusiasm and inspire those around them to do the same.
9. Take action
People are inspired by what people do, not what they say, and there will not be a more critical time for leaders to step up and take action than in a pandemic. Actions speak louder than words. When a leader is all talk and no action, their words become empty and meaningless, and people will become disengaged and disillusioned. When leaders take action, it inspires those around them to follow suit.
10. Invite conversation
Great leaders invite conversation which can unlock new ideas and different way of thinking and working. A leader’s job is not only to inspire others but to create an environment where people inspire each other through conversions and actions. Great leaders give everyone a voice and create a platform for two-way conversations. People will feel more confident to share their ideas and communicate their views when they know their voice will be listened to and acknowledged. Great ideas don’t just come from the top.
11. Lead with courage
Courage is what distinguishes great leaders from mediocre ones. Courageous leaders are willing to climb over obstacles, take risks, walk into the darkness, do what’s difficult and sometimes even attempt the seemingly impossible. Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the ability to overcome fear. Courageous leaders give everyone the confidence to believe in themselves and their abilities and forge a path forward that inspires others to follow even in difficult times.
12. Be adaptable and flexible
During challenging times or in times of crisis — stress and anxiety are high. Leaders need to be adaptable and flexible to meet the changing environment and the health and well-being of their people. The focus must be on navigating both your teams and individual with compassion, kindness and empathy. By doing so your people will feel supported, stay connected and continue to work hard and do their best for you and the organization.