Leadership can be tempered by crisis to become greater, or break under the high heat, never to be fixed. Tempering or the prolonged exposure of iron to high heat makes it tougher, yet less brittle, and more ductile, or flexible. Crisis, much like the process of tempering takes a leader from ordinary to greatness, ending in a tougher and more flexible leader.
We need our leadership to show courage and make strategic decisions, especially in times of crisis, like Hannibal of Carthage, a Carthaginian general from the age of Rome.
Hannibal of Carthage is considered one of history’s most strategic wartime commanders, and his stellar conquest of Cannae marked him as one of the canniest wartime leaders. Hannibal displayed unthinkable military intelligence and charismatic leadership when he led his 50,000 Carthaginian forces against 86,000 Romans and won.
COVID-19 is a crisis that leaders in every field are facing today, and yet, despite the odds, I am confident that we will get through it.
Here are five universal tips for leaders to turn the tide during pressing times.
1. Slash fears by building trust
COVID-19 has engulfed the workforce with a higher-than-normal fear of uncertainty, heightened the levels of stress and unease, and affected morale and productivity. Leaders must address these employee concerns by building an environment of trust, using empathy and injecting hope and positivity. They must strive to be transparent by communicating the plan of action with customers, partners, and employees. The message that leaders must relay is “We all are in this together, and this too shall pass.” And, it’s true, it will pass, and we are all in this together.
2. Fuel solidarity
In times of crisis, a leader must stand in solidarity with the workforce. There must be policies put in place to empower the staff to cope with existing uncertainties. The first step in this process is to orchestrate vertical and horizontal coordination to bring harmony in communication and promote unity between managers and employees. Further, organizations must go virtual by adopting work from home solutions, video conferencing, and heightened network security protocols. Eventually, COVID-19 will increase our fortitude to withstand shocks, adopt a new normal, and unlearn what made us vulnerable in the first place.
3. Fail-fast innovation
Except for the initial knee-jerk reaction that is the inevitable reaction for anyone in a crisis, a leader must bounce back and quickly get into damage control mode. The leadership team must start by assessing the external and internal factors in the situation, and design a feasibility study. They must gauge the impact of the crisis on their line of services/product and see if it requires shapeshifting. Only then, can they chart an action plan for the future. An ideal way is to have small achievable goals in mind with fail-fast experiments. This way, one can quickly learn from past mistakes without much impact, innovate, and embark on newer goals. At MSys, we’ve implemented a few measures like CI/CD delivery pipelines with strategic hiring, leadership elevation, and a new customer acquisition model to address the Corona impact.
4. Build resilience to prevent burnout
COVID-19, like any crisis, has induced societal changes, volatility in industries, and financial instability. Employees are under pressure to over-perform, which makes them push the envelope. This can become overwhelming once a performance plateau is attained, resulting in burnout. Managers need to address to the team about all the underlying bottlenecks. Organizations must create realistic optimism and invest in overall learning and development of individual employees. Likewise, there must be new policies encouraging incentives for achieving results. Leaders should also collaborate with human resources departments to roll out policies benefiting employees’ mental health and well-being.
5. Train your team for crisis leadership
The first step towards building resiliency in any team is honest communication. Respective managers should ask questions frequently to employees regarding work challenges. This will signal empathy and care. Once a member opens up, then the manager can think of an appropriate solution to address the problems. It may also facilitate the creation of a new learning mechanism to suit the existing situation. Managers must additionally build on the strengths of their employees and explore new learning opportunities to do scaffold weaknesses.
Make the mind fearless by living in the present moment
Steve Jobs once said about meditation, “You start to see things more clearly and be in the present more. You see so much more than you could see before.” Meditation can help unnerve stress, suppress inner conflict, generate empathy, and improve the power of creative thinking. Meditation can hone the inner core and help in the accumulation of focus on the brighter side. When your mind is fearless, no crisis can wobble your inner strength.