Opinion

7 Actions to Be a Strong Leader During COVID-19 Disruption

As they say, change is constant. While the change has brought some good news like the earth’s ozone layer is healing itself as the pollution level has drastically come down, its consequences, on the other hand, have disrupted many large and small scale businesses, organizations, economy, and society at large.

While the COVID-19 outbreak continues to evolve and it is difficult to forecast the impact as things are changing on a daily or even hourly basis, one thing for certain is that we will experience another business crisis again in the future.

The best quote for this situation I would like to mention is:

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” 

– Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

So this is the time for agile leaders who can anticipate change and turn it into a positive change.

I requested Dr. Aditya Mukherjee, Vice President at Synchrony to lend us his insights as he is a security veteran with over a decade of experience in this industry including a security leader role at Accenture.

Dr. Aditya believes Trust, Confidence & Conviction, Empowerment & Patience, Communication & Transparency, Vision & Strategy are the five traits a leader should have.

Leadership in itself is a vast topic, one which is often misrepresented under the veil of charisma and manipulation. There are about 5-12 different recognized leadership styles, and the first thing that someone should focus on is to understand which leadership style they belong to and how it resonates with them and their team respectively.

No two leaders are the same. Everyone has a different lense and point of view through which they approach a challenge and resolve it.

Based on his experience, he believes that the following should form the core fundamentals of one’s leadership portfolio especially in challenging and uncertain times like these.

1. Trust – This is a 2-way street, you need to genuinely have and show trust in the team and in what they do. Simultaneously, through your actions, and conduct you need to ensure that your team trusts you as well. This is a crucial step.

You’ve just got to believe in and trust everyone in your team, and no doubt they will, too.

– Ashleigh Barty

2. Confidence & Conviction – Couple of factors that go a long way into building a solid foundation for trust is the show of honest confidence in the team. This inherently builds loyalty and a sense of empowerment for the team. Conviction, on the other hand, helps build an understanding and brings stability in the workflow. Show confidence that your team is good at what they do and that they can achieve the targets set for them. Help them on the way as needed, but keep the morale up.

3. Empowerment & Patience – In situations like the one we are in right now, as a leader you can not do everything on your own. Hence, it is a great opportunity to enable your teams and empower them not only from an operational standpoint but also in decision making with a phased approach. This will enable them to grow as leaders themselves and take-up new responsibilities and demonstrate their capabilities. Patience is key here, as not everyone will be successful. Some may fail in their new given empowered roles, but as a leader, you should coach them, help them improve and excel in the new frontier that lies in front of them, so to speak. Have patience and with the correct mentioning, most will evolve into better professionals and leaders.

He that can have patience can have what he will.

– Benjamin Franklin

4. Communication & Transparency – When we are all working remotely, it’s even more important to initiate channels for open discussions and provide individual time to each member of the team, so as to avoid the feeling of them being abandoned and isolated. Not just from a professional standpoint but also try and have a connection at a personal level. Remember, we all work with Humans, not Machines.

In the corporate world, things keep on changing, and goals keep being transformed to keep up with the changing landscape of the various requirements and markets. Hence, being able to communicate with clarity is paramount. This helps the team understand the reason and logic behind the actions that the management takes and why. This also helps in getting more engagement and buy-in from the team.

5. Vision & Strategy – The role and primary responsibility of a leader are to lead, and how can one lead unless they know the destination, or at least the direction or path they need to follow. Hence, it is important to have a clear Vision and Strategy of how the team would operate, tackle challenges or resolve other conflicts while working remotely. Also, this unprecedented change might impact what and how you work as part of a new business strategy. Share that with the team, which not only goes a long way to build confidence and trust but also cultivates a collaborative mindset among the team.

Apart from these some basic traits that should be on top of a leader’s mind are – Empathy, Coaching, Mentoring, Encouragement & Appreciation, as well as Avoiding Micromanagement.

Richard Stiennon, Chief Research Analyst at IT-Harvest says compassion is the most important trait a leader should have especially in these times:

“I think the most important trait for a leader in these times is compassion: an understanding of each person’s troubles that far overshadow their day to day work needs.”

Vandana Verma, a cybersecurity expert, thinks being emotionally connected with the team is crucial:

“In these tough times, it’s much required for a leader to be emotionally connected when we have so much negativity around. S/he should act as a guiding light and bind the team such that it would feel like a family. Undoubtedly, no one had ever thought of such a situation in which a pandemic would hit the world like this where everyone must stay remote to stay safe. A strong leader should be calm, hopeful and optimistic about the situation.”

Here different leaders have suggested different views which is very likely. However, one thing very common in them is they all have given the priority to developing a human connection with the team, building a rapport and showing that you truly care about them.

Image credit: Pixabay.com

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