Lead differently

Many local CEOs are making efforts to lead their companies differently in the present crisis. Some, whose Emotional Quotient doesn’t always shine through, are surprising their employees by prioritising humanity. One grizzled Alpha male tells me he spent an entire day ‘just talking to my people, making sure they are OK.’ He’s worked out that employee loyalty is driven by emotion; and that’s what will sustain and strengthen his business in the coming months.

So what can we all do to reshape our leadership behaviours in a more positive way – both for now and for the future? Well, first we can make more of an effort to communicate with everyone. With so much uncertainty, it falls to each of us (in our families, communities and businesses) to try to project the calm voice of reason.  This is not about pretending everything is fine when it’s not. To pick up on a theme I raised two weeks ago, being clear is being kind. So let’s work on being concise, unambiguous and timely.

Communication helps to build trust, and that should lead to more effective collaboration. Which we need right now because every day we face new situations for which the old remedies will be ineffective. The more your people feel you genuinely have their best interests at heart, the more they will offer solutions and help. In normal times we called this discretionary effort; and it’s never more relevant than today. A crisis obliterates boundaries and tests us to see how quickly we can discard “the way we’ve always done things”.

Even though you may already champion a more collaborative style of leadership, times like these demand you be more open and adaptable. And here women have an advantage. Joan Michelson, writing for Forbes Women, reminds us of the McKinsey studies that show women in leadership positions are very much better at developing their people, setting clear expectations and fair reward systems, and being visible role models. Women are also slighter better than men at inspiring others and encouraging participative decision making. Fellow men, I think we should take that as a challenge!

Finally, now that you have restructured for remote working, it’s time to adjust the norms of the working day. Isolation puts the most pressure on your most reliable people: parents. Juggling the stress of confinement with the pressures of homeschooling, feeding the family, and entertaining the young. Marriages are tested: note the global rise in domestic violence. Even dealing with an ‘atmosphere’ at home will impair productivity. As a leader, watch for those signs and cut your people some slack.