The leader locked down – providing the “essential services” of leadership

Now what?

The SA lockdown is past its halfway point, we have (mostly) come to terms with our current reality, the future is worrying and so one may very well wonder – now what?

Amidst all the information, advice, videos, and webinars going around, we still have to provide leadership to our people. In extreme uncertainty we need to remind ourselves of the fundamentals of leadership.

When crisis strikes, we do not have to throw a textbook worth of theories and strategies at our organisations. Just like we may only leave our homes for the basics, just so should be our approach to leadership. We should provide the necessities to our people and our organisations.

Here are some essentials and fundamentals to keep in mind:

  • Vision – Leadership is mostly providing a compelling vision of the future for others to aspire to. Easier said than done, but we are the ones our people will look to. What can you do to provide your people with a picture of a future worth going to? A compelling vision may be one of surviving the short term and sticking to the established long-term goals. Or, it may be a case of pivoting and going into a new direction. Our people will also need a clear strategy on how to get there, however, before formulating your winning strategy, consider the importance of people buying into the vision. To get buy-in, focus on shared goals and get input on what the way forward is. Consider creating a temporary “rally cry” that makes the vision tangible and manageable in the present.
  • Clarity – We need to create focus and set clear priorities. This means concrete decisions and transparent communication on what we are doing, and what we are not, through action plans and assigned action steps.
  • Understanding – Do our people have the information they need? Clear, unambiguous, and transparent communication is needed about what the company is facing and what short- and medium-term realities are (and what you are doing about this). Arm people with simple and scientific information to navigate current challenges.
  • Agility – It’s time to practice thinking that is unabated by conventionalism. Innovation and management of change will become drivers of competitive advantage like never before. Are we preventing an agile response? Either by clinging to unnecessary structures or procedures or becoming a bottle neck ourselves. Are you open to new ways of thinking about challenges? Are you empowering your people to do what is required? It’s time to achieve results through our people, not in spite of them.
  • Humanity – These times call on us to be “exceedingly human”. Double up on connection – with yourself, and with others. We need to apply self-awareness to acknowledge our own mental states and to show that we too are experiencing the emotions our people are. Calling someone for a quick check-in, or providing an empathetic word of encouragement will also go a long way.

Navigating the unknown has never been easy. Leadership in times of crisis is tough and complex, but when the dust settles, our credibility and legacy will be defined by whether we did the basics right, and the extent to which we provided stability in the face of volatility.