By: Justin Naylor, MD, iTOO Special Risks
The coronavirus has no parallels in recent history; it has changed the way we live and work; and pushed businesses to the limit or out of business. It has been easy to become negative and many have used this crisis as an excuse for missed opportunities and failure. It has also been a time that has forced remarkable companies to change tack and reinvent.
Game Lodges converting to virtual games drives and entertaining viewers from around the world; restaurants changing onsite dining to dark kitchens and home deliveries; public speakers and relationships going virtual; retail foot traffic converting to digital.
Ultimately, a crisis is a test of leadership and these are some of my observations and learnings about being a leader in a crisis.
Be a spark for positive change
Nobody follows a pessimistic leader and in the time of a crisis, when a team is uncertain, is when a leader needs to stand up stay positive. This does not mean ignoring challenges and worst-case scenarios, it means understanding them and navigating through them in a way that gives your team direction and hope. A team and culture are the only things that cannot be copied, good leaders are aware of how their team feels every day, if they feel the energy of your culture, then your customers will feel it too. Building a company where the best people want to work is the most important thing that a leader can do.
Don’t let a good crisis go to waste is a phrase that has been spoken about often during the covid-19 pandemic, and there are many businesses that have really used the crisis to change their businesses models and create opportunities that will last long after the crisis.
Many companies have chosen to go into survival mode to merely get through the crisis and some may survive and come out of the other side weaker, but still in business. Many that adopt this survival mode will not make it through, because the rules of the game have changed. You can’t sustain managing by fear and the best leaders in a crisis take bold decisions because a crisis is often a case of innovate or die and this means that leaders need to understand all the risks and take calculated, but bold decisions.
Be a deep thinker
When everything is changing at a rapid pace, a leader needs to eat, sleep, and breathe the business, but importantly, a leader needs to take time to think to stay ahead of the game. To navigate uncertain times a leader needs to read, scan the news, observe the world, understand trends, talk to people and pick up threats and opportunities long before they arise. In a crisis like covid-19 you often need to shoot from the hip and take quick decisions but to do this, you need to have a deep understanding of the world around you.
As the business world moves more of its activity to digital, one of the most important skills of the future is going to be the ability to build real relationships with employees and customers. If you had strong relationships before lockdown, they would continue.
You don’t become a great leader by imitating someone else, you need to be yourself self, be mindful of your weaknesses, build a team around you, play to your strengths and do it in your own way. One of the most important characteristics of a leader is to care. If you care about your people above everything, they will care about the company and its customers.