One thing has become a clear factor of how effective tackling Covid-19 has been around the world – leadership. It is clear that where there is strong, considered, decisive and empathetic leadershipd the outcome has been better. For many years we have talked about leadership, what it is and how to develop it, but has it all been just talk.
Clearly, this is one of the most challenging and complex situations that any business or organisation has ever faced. There is no manual of how to lead through a pandemic like Covid-19. People do have some sympathy for those who are now expected to find a way through crisis, into recovery and rebuilding businesses. But this is not guaranteed and support can be lost within moments if the business is out of step.
If anyone saw the HM Treasury tweet last night, you can see how easy it is to misread the mood and tone. During a crisis organisations can become caught up in how they are responding, operating and developing at the expense of connections to those around them. Quickly it means operating in a bubble losing touch with the prevailing mood and tone. It is why listening and engagement are critical to crisis communication and response. I call it looking from the outside in.
This is just one of the problems that leaders face when they are dealing with a crisis. With Covid-19 leaders need to be able to reimagine, reinvent and redesign the business as well as have an eye on the public mood, managing the finances and supporting employees. If that wasn’t enough then they also have their own personal battles to deal with in understanding and dealing with the virus. At the moment of crisis is when the best leaders survive and if there are flaws it is more likely to lead to failure. Leaders that are not resilient, prepared and connected to the people will be found wanting.
This is why I have devoted a whole chapter of my book Crisis Communication Strategies to the subject of leadership. They have a key role in the communication not just the operational response. There are 10 crisis leadership qualities that I have outlined within the book:
- Effective communicator
- Skilled at managing expectations
This is a huge challenge and where there is weakness there will be failure. There is still time to learn and develop for those dealing with this crisis. But time is running out if they are not able to listen and find the strength to lead the business through to a successful recovery.
Have we trained our leaders to be effective in a crisis? What more can be done to help them at this challenging time? Let me know your views.