As Bob Dylan said, “The Times, they’re a-changing”. Humankind has never minded change – always having managed to adopt, adapt and survive. Till Now. Shaken to the very foundations, humankind is struggling to cope with an invisible micro-organism – a Virus – that has managed to render all the collective rights & intellects of the world helpless. The Covid-19 has not only swept away our illusions of being the most evolved species but also those of our invincibility. Besides rendering us helpless, it has stripped away the illusions of superiority we have and swept into the nitty-gritty of the business. As many firms struggle to close their books of accounts by the end of March, Covid-19 impacted financial reporting rendering all our military might, IT expertise, vast knowledge or information – futile. How leaders think, engage, analyse, respond – this will shape our collective futures. Further down the ladder, as we scramble to cope in the best way we know-how, business leaders face increasingly novel and complex business challenges.
Somewhere there is a growing realization that past experiences may not be enough at all: they may not always equip leaders properly and make them fully experienced enough to navigate and lead through previously unencountered scenarios such as the global coronavirus pandemic. In view of this, globally there has been increasing interest in identifying and developing the leadership fundamentals that enable adaptation and agility to face and overcome changing realities. Mainly, how do we prepare our leaders to lead organizations in an increasingly VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) world? It will call for a new kind of leadership with elements of toughness, empathy, team-drive and inclusiveness.
Also Read:- What is Coronavirus (COVID-19) ?
Richard Strozzi-Heckler, in “The Leadership Dojo: Build Your Foundation as an Exemplary Leader” says, “Exemplary leadership is not a thing – the correct genes, an appointment, a technique, or the chance of the draw that favours one individual over another. Exemplary leadership is a way of being, whether you’re leading others or leading your own life. Leadership can be developed; it’s a choice and an option.” While we all know that leadership is not for the weak-minded, certain leaders are stronger than others. The strength here, of course, refers to a person’s emotional courage. The courage of conviction. A belief that they have what it takes to get a job done that what they have done is right, and the ability to deal with the consequences.
Leaders are responsible for the fortunes of entire organizations and countries and their each and every move is scrutinized by those around them.
“The higher a monkey climbs, the more people who can see its ass.”
— Jack Welch, former GE CEO
Leaders like presidents and prime ministers of countries have it the toughest. Unfair criticism, personal attacks, even complete character assassination comes with the territory. A tough leader is able to shrug it off, but it takes courage to do so. Different circumstances and changing scenarios require leaders to respond in different ways and a tough leader should feel competent dealing with all of them. Here is where they will have to adopt, adapt and survive. When the entire survival of the organization is at stake, the leader has to take calculated risks – and the results may not always be what one wants or dream of. It can succeed or it can backfire. Being prepared for new learnings, being response top change and changing course mid-stream are smaller elements which will be required anytime, and demanded actually – from leaders.
Today, the only Certainty is Uncertainty. Gradually, grudgingly, people are coming to accept that. And coming to terms with it. But reluctantly – and hence the leaders will have to carry teams along with them while enforcing change and driving efficiencies.
Here are 3 ways for leaders to be more effective in today’s VUCA COVID scenario:
The Thinking Leader:
The ongoing Covid-19 situation — aptly described both as a pandemic as well as an 'infodemic' — requires leaders to cut through the immense clutter noise to identify and address the most crucial issues at every juncture. It also demands that they should think ahead, and keep in mind the sight of the bigger picture to avoid taking decisions that could backfire and cause bigger problems, today as well as in the future. Taking feedback from all sources possible, collating the information, taking a gut decision, risking something – all these will become crucial factors in deciding how to respond effectively.
The Engaging Leader:
We tend to forget that at it’s very basic, the Covid-19 is most fundamentally a human crisis that is impacting employees and societies in ways no events have ever done. Business and economic implications aside, leaders need humane approaches and people‘s feedback & insights intelligence to address employee anxieties with empathy and provide a sense of psychological security. The human insights gained from interacting with the team, learning their fears and motivations, their gut feelings – all these issues, in this new reality, involve a delicate balance between prepping employees for a fluid future and revised diverse work profiles.
The Learning Leader:
Given the uncertainty, complexity and serious nature of the crisis at hand, no leader can handle this entirely alone. He will need to be a learner – will need to have the ability to learn from and leverage others’ thinking and experiences for more inclusive, decision-driven approaches to desired outcomes. This kind of an open, learning-oriented approach becomes especially critical, allowing leaders to make well-informed decisions. In today’s situation, this means that they need to pro-actively seek and objectively judge information and suggestions — both from within the Organization and Outside”.