As we continue to adapt to the impacts of a global pandemic, Rose Partners’ CEO Adam Honor offers his insight into the key factors for great leadership in adversity.

Before I began my role at Rose Partners in 2020, I sought to purposely take the time to decompress, reflect on my professional career, align myself with my planned next career and execute. However, COVID-19 torpedoed the decompression time and I struggled to even come up for air.

I spent eight weeks at the beginning of last year working closely with some major blue-chip companies and SMEs. During this time, I found these companies struggle as they focus on survival in grappling the COVID-19 pandemic.

With all the companies I worked with, more than 85 per cent of them stated they were not prepared for this crisis.

During these times it is difficult to differentiate between the company response and the leadership response to a crisis given their close alignment and synergies of the required activities.

However, I will break out the key company responses, the traits of a good leader and some practical guidance for good leadership during times of crisis, especially COVID-19.

 If you own a business or are a CEO, I believe you should focus on these three key areas:

Put the wellbeing of your employees above all else. They are your greatest asset. Bar none.

Communicate in a clear, concise, honest and transparent manner. Be prompt, be informative and ensure not only employees but customers are part of your communications plan.

Tighten the budgets. The pandemic has undoubtedly hit everyone’s strategy and therefore, until such a point that we can emerge from this and a revised strategy is agreed, hold off on new hires, tighten expenses and keep budgets in check.

Having listened on conference calls, I have heard leaders wrestling with the challenge of keeping businesses going, managing virtual teams, keeping employees engaged and how best to support their suppliers and customers. I have learned a lot. I have been asked to speak to leadership teams about the key traits of leadership during a crisis event and what are the key actions of a great leader.

For those of you looking to use this opportunity to develop, here are some of those qualities I believe you need:

Empathy – You need to understand and recognise these are challenging times for your team. Acknowledge this, understanding their respective challenges, empathise and support them.

Clarity – These are times for clear and concise communications. Your vision is paramount in

explaining next steps and the future. This will undoubtedly allow your team to understand their role in the crisis.

Passion – The best leaders exhibit boundless energy and passion for their work and the opportunity to lead. This trait is inspirational and is a demonstration of one who cares about what they do. Exude this passion via whatever means possible.

Humility – Confidence is attractive. However, a leader who can admit when they’re wrong and take constructive feedback is a truly admirable quality. Be humble during these times as it shows how worthy you are of that elevated position of leadership.

Decisiveness – Be clear and consistent with your decision-making. Have the courage to make bold moves, have the ability to change tack, if required. However, just show strong commitment to the decisions you make.

With the understanding of what traits make a great leader, how do you best apply these during these times of the pandemic crisis. How to execute;

Communicate, communicate, and communicate. I cannot emphasise enough how important it is to keep talking and listening to your colleagues. The first element of this is the medium. Use video wherever you can, whether that be video calls that the workforce can join to listen to you, or one-to-one sessions with members of your team.

Broaden the context of the communication. The second important aspect of communication is to move beyond the transactional elements of work. Grab a cup of coffee and spend 15 minutes online with them, have that same coffee shop conversation; update yourself on your colleagues’ world (how’s the family, time for gardening (?), how is home-schooling working, any funny stuff that’s happened, things you’ve seen while out on a walk). Now is the time to be more than just the ‘boss’, communicate about things that will help people survive these difficult times.

Support each other, support your team. The sense of camaraderie from working together to get through this challenging time is really important in helping people cope. If they know you understand their challenges, their needs and the seriousness of the situation, you are a long way to providing the reassurance they are looking for.

Take time to develop your teams. Use virtual and remote training experiences to deliver the training you’ve always wanted to do, but time has never allowed (either by you or a third party – budget dependent). Ask people who are considered experts on their topics within your business to run 30 – 60-minute seminars on a particular topic. This might be on how to use a specific piece of software, or how specific processes work. Communication tools such as Microsoft Teams and Google Hangouts allow for screen sharing and for the sessions to be recorded for people to re-watch at a later date to work through again at their leisure.

Revisit your strategy. You started your financial year with a vision that became a strategy and plan. No plan survives contact with the enemy (in this case COVID-19). Take this time to revisit all aspects of the strategy / plan and communicate to your leadership team and your own employees on what the revised plan is.

Don’t forget customers. Either internal or external, they are an important part of your strategy. Bring them into the discussions. In doing so, you will get a richer range of ideas and also build stronger relationships with them that could prove really powerful for when we all come out of this crisis

‘The very essence of leadership is that you have to have vision. You can’t blow an uncertain trumpet.’

 Theodore M. Hesburgh

So, reflecting on the above, are you leading or just managing during the COVID-19 crisis?

Leaders instil in their people a hope for success and a belief in themselves. Positive leaders empower people to accomplish their goals.

Now is not the time for managers. This is the time for strong, empathetic, self-aware, credible and courageous leaders.

Best of luck in leading your way through these difficult times. We will face another crisis event in the future and your skills, values, experience and behaviours as a leader will be required more than ever and will ensure success for both you and your company.

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