Over the past few weeks, our lives have changed. Things we took for granted are suddenly no longer opportunities. As of this post, many parts of the world are locked down due to a pandemic, and countless people everywhere are curtailing their daily activities. It’s possible that you’re reading my words from your home rather than your place of business. Regardless, stay healthy.
Times like these remind those of us who hold positions of leadership how critical our roles are when crises occur. Staff look to us for guidance, direction and encouragement. It’s our job to run the company, manage our staff, make important decisions, and plan ahead for how we’ll get back to normal once the uncertainty has ended. For many, this means working from home, and although telecommuting is a routine way of working for many Canadians (and others), it’s not something that all companies practice.
Although managing your team has shifted from the conference room to Zoom meetings and FaceTime calls, there are still ways to practice effective leadership during times of uncertainty.
Crises are unpredictable, sometimes to the point of changing things within the same day. There was a period of uncertainty after the planes destroyed the World Trade Center in New York. As with the COVID-19 pandemic, no one would have imagined just a few weeks earlier that things would become so dramatically changed. A good leader needs to have the wisdom, temperament and flexibility to deal with issues as they arise.
While many leaders enjoy being the person who gets to make decisions, let’s be honest. Decisions aren’t always easy or enjoyable to make. You have to take a big-picture view of the situation with which you’re dealing, weigh all the options, consider the risks and rewards, then commit to the decision. Often, you have to do this quickly. Then you have to both live with and stand by your decision. During periods of uncertainty, while you can reasonably see a few weeks or months ahead relevant to how your decision will likely impact the company, no one has a crystal ball. After you’ve made your decision, prepare for next steps.
This is extremely important, since your staff are taking their leads from you. If you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will either. During periods of uncertainty, people follow those who are self-assured, embody credibility and carry themselves as leaders. Choose your words carefully and say what you mean like you mean it.
Always be truthful in everything you say and do. Whether communicating with your senior staff, customers, peers, the media, or others, it’s important to speak and write the truth. At the end of the day, your credibility and integrity will both protect you and position you as a strong, effective leader.