The global community has been living amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting global economic crisis for anywhere between three and eight months, depending on the region of the world. This crisis feels acute and also has lasting effects on our daily lives.
While it is important to act quickly in a crisis, Financial Times author Yuval Noah Harari cautions that “we should also take into account the long-term consequences of our actions…we should ask ourselves not only how to overcome the immediate threat, but also what kind of world we will inhabit once the storm passes.”
In many ways, this virus has revealed the interconnectedness of the world. The entire globe is experiencing common economic and health effects. In the same way, we have an opportunity to learn from one another about how to respond. Harari says, “we need a spirit of global co-operation and trust…countries should be willing to share information openly and humbly seek advice.”
You as local leaders should also exercise the same learning posture and openness to sharing reliable information. You should coordinate with people and organizations outside of your usual circles in order to serve your communities.
In MIT Sloan Management Review, author Eric J. McNulty references his colleague Linda Ginzel who says, “leading is about guiding people into the future despite its risks and uncertainties.” You must be willing to focus on three areas that “help foster sustained high performance” for your teams and entire organizations.
Be assured that the COVID-19 crisis will pass, but also that other crises will arise. We all must be willing and able to adapt and shift our organization’s operations. This ability to pivot requires people within the organization who “do not normally work together to come together.”
McNulty shares that “a successful pivot requires planting one foot on something solid and moving the other to change direction.” You must constantly remind your colleagues of your organization’s core values and principles and rally everyone around those shared practices.
Those core values and principles construct the solid foundation where employees and shareholders can firmly stand. It is from this foundation that leaders can shift directions in one area of the organization or another. McNulty also recommends that senior leadership “value contributions no matter who offers them,” saying that now is not the time for politics.
As many have said throughout this pandemic, within every crisis there is opportunity. You may find that your team or organization comes together and works more effectively than they ever have before, because of the crisis. Use this time to be aspirational, to encourage everyone
“throughout the enterprise that ‘we can do it,’ and then to support them both at work and at home.”
A specialist in workforce resilience, Dr. Lucy English, notes that roughly half of all people are worst-case thinkers and will operate from a fear mentality during a crisis. As the leader, you must present a “realistic assessment of what is most likely to happen” in order to point the energy from those types of employees into “more positive territory.”
Based on their research, McNulty says that “trust is at the foundation of cooperative and collaborative leadership.” Trust is not developed through intentions only, but through “dialogue and actions.” Clear, consistent, and honest communication work well to build trust.
In times of crisis, the decisions we make and actions that we take will “define [our] organization’s culture for years afterward.” The lessons we learn and our leadership practices can lead to healthier and more resilient organizations that are more prepared for future crises.
About DeBoer Fellowship
The DeBoer Fellowship is committed to developing change leaders across all sectors of Myanmar society. Through our multi-year fellowship program and other public programming, DeBoer Fellowship works toward a prosperous Myanmar by training competent, compassionate, and ethical leaders. For more information about DeBoer Fellowship or to apply to the Fellowship, please visit: www.deboerfellowship.org.