Leadership in Times of Corona
It is not so easy in this situation none of us have known before to continue in our usual working roles.
For leaders, there are new unforeseen and unknown challenges. The old ways are not the right ways right now.
I believe that leaders now have very special roles and a great deal of responsibility.
On the one hand they need to offer guidance and clarity, and yet they are just as affected by the crisis as anyone else.
Staff are often unsure about what now matters during this crisis, and for many home office is new territory. The business or organisation also does not know exactly what all of this means for the medium or long term, and if things can go back to “normal.” Perhaps this is not a bad thing.
Many organisations have reacted very quickly – a few weeks ago already – and have set up or extended home office facilities. Others intend to do this, but have not been able to meet technical requirements so quickly. These levels of home office are new for nearly all companies.
So what can a leader do?
Be human! In this, I mean above all that you should listen! Listen to the concerns of your staff, whether these are about their work or more general fears about the future.
Spread a positive mood. This is of course only possible if you yourself are not deeply worried and plagued by negative feelings. But do attempt to create a positive mood, for yourself and for your team. Ask yourself what the advantages of this situation might be, both privately and professionally.
If you yourself are in crisis, then look for someone you can talk to and can share whatever is worrying you. You may choose professionals, like coaches, therapists and supervisors, or just your friends. Better not your staff.
That does not mean that you may not show any doubts or weakness to your staff. You should do it in the right doses, as it helps no one if the boss is buckling under the burden.
Many crises also provide us with opportunities. This is a chance to re-evaluate the ways you have been doing things, and to look for and find very new solutions. As a leader, it is your task to ask your staff the right questions, to show trust, and to be available for your team.
Should you be checking on and controlling your staff’s work and working rhythms? There is no one simple answer to this. Ask them. Some of them might need more contact, perhaps even a daily phone call. Others might be able to deliver results at agreed times and organise their work themselves.
It will pay off to reflect on channels of communication. Perhaps you are the kind of person who likes to write e-mails, but your staff would prefer phone calls. Talk to each other, ask if you should be using the phone or e-mail, or if video conferences are a better way of keeping in touch.
The theory of situational leadership is very topical. Use this time to think about your leadership approach and to change things if you want.
Above all, it is now important that you take a more active role in maintaining contact to your team than you would when in the office, and you might see them regularly.
Assess Your Team Structure! Are there staff members who you have been wanting to give new tasks for some time? Would you like to reorganise responsibilities? Should your team and others connect differently? Is some new balance needed? This is a good time to ask yourself and your team questions like these. Make sure that responsibilities are clearly allocated wherever this is needed, and that they are flexible when this helps.
You and Your Team Can Do Some Learning! This is a good time to ask which skills and knowledge can be augmented, and to think about training that can be done. You can draw on existing online courses, or you can order tailor-made online courses for your team from trainers you know. Or take the “old-fashioned” way and you and your team can read some specialist books.
I truly advise you not to stick your head in the sand. This period of restrictions will pass. Many things will be different then in the ways we work together, and many things will be unchanged.
Use your time now, so that in the autumn you won’t be saying to yourself: “If only …”