Leadership in the COVID-19 era
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, we are seeing and hearing about the innovative ways people are staying connected and reassuring each other. Likewise, the heroic acts of compassion and the tireless, selfless, dedication of many doctors and nurses are an inspiration. Their care for those affected by the virus goes beyond the call of duty and is performed at grave personal risk. Their selfless effort is captured in a video piece published in the NY Times.
In this extraordinary time worldwide, such actions provoke us to self-reflection, to look at our own lives, our relationships, our response and conduct toward those around us. This is an opportunity for all of us to consider our actions toward one another. To ask ourselves “How do our behaviors affect the lives of those around us? Are we living in a way that improves the lives of others and makes them feel accepted? Are we authentic in our dealings with others?”
During a crisis, our best leaders rise to the top. They find ways to reconnect with their people, employees, and congregations to collaborate and ensure the agility of their organizations. They listen carefully to the fears and concerns of their people and make sure that they are heard and supported.
Leaders are venturing into new uncharted areas to support their organizations remotely as they work around the clock on a range of issues that are emerging daily. In these uncertain times, empathy and authenticity are leadership characteristics that are indispensable.
To be effective in the midst of a traumatic situation and to help team members cope with diverse challenges, leaders need to take steps that will unite their organizations in preparation for what is ahead. These include:
It starts with being clear and being able to openly share personal concerns and experiences with team members, as well as provide reassurances.
Leaders are challenged to raise up the bar, to show compassion and encourage teams to higher levels of effectiveness. To do this, leaders must demonstrate care for those around them in a way that brings out the best in everyone. This means that all leaders will need to show unconditional compassion.
Kindness is inspiring but when motives are misplaced lives are adversely affected. Leaders need to find solutions to problems and be conscious not to become self-focused. Instead, appreciate differences and recognize the importance of mutual trust and acceptance of others.
The pandemic and recent technological changes have intensified the need to help reskill the workforce. As a result, certain jobs will be executed differently, and some will be eliminated. In order to deal with the myriad of operational and emotional challenges that lay ahead in a post COVID-19 era, forward-thinking leaders need to rethink how to inspire their teams.
When social distancing is the rule, a people-centric approach to leadership is not only still possible but is that much more important. Servant-leaders are paving the way as humble and passionate operators who care for the success of their businesses while ensuring the well-being of their employees. ― Robert K. Greenleaf, in one of his essays on Servant Leadership: A Journey into the Nature of Legitimate Power and Greatness stated that “Ego focuses on one’s own survival, pleasure, and enhancement to the exclusion of others; ego is selfishly ambitious. It sees relationships in terms of threat or no threat, like little children who classify all people as “nice” or “mean.” Conscience, on the other hand, both democratizes and elevates ego to a larger sense of the group, the whole, the community, the greater good. It sees life in terms of service and contribution, in terms of others’ security and fulfillment.”
The power to change is in our hands; wanting it or not, we are currently forced to distance ourselves physically. The way leaders manage and communicate with team members is facing its ultimate experiment. While in quarantine, we are all reminded that we are not meant to be alone – people are important no matter their race, economic status or where they are from. We have seen how quickly the economy, our health, and the world can change not by a nuclear warhead, or a big bang but simply by the spread of a microscopic virus. In a recent Message to his company, Co-Founder and CEO of Airbnb Brian Chesky wrote “The world needs human connection now more than ever, and I know that Airbnb will rise to the occasion. I believe this because I believe in you.” Today, stay connected with your teammates and those in your lives and don’t give up on anyone for we know not what tomorrow will bring. Be ready to be the best you can be. If you lead a team, they are looking at you and need you now more than ever.
“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.” ― Nelson Mandela