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Effective leadership during the COVID-19 crisis

Updated: Nov 13, 2021

The current crisis involving the COVID-19 pandemic is different than anything we’ve faced in over a century, one that looks to be a prolonged and possibly existential challenge for organizations. Effective leadership in a prolonged crisis with such serious consequences is absolutely necessary for an organization and its people, and requires physical, psychological and emotional fortitude. In this pandemic crisis, resilient leaders must respond and adjust to fluid circumstances across the organization in a climate that changes day by day and hour by hour.

In my point of view, the leader’s primary responsibility is to keep the team safe, cohesive and productive. Then, to deal with the crisis, leaders must develop the 4 attitudes bellow:

Attitude N°1: Set and establish a list of priorities:

In the event of a crisis, there are instances when companies need to deviate from standard policies and procedures to best meet the needs of their customers and employees.

Leaders’ primary responsibility in this context, is to make the companies available to incorporate pandemic planning considerations into existing resilience management activities to provide a comprehensive response and to provide continuity for their most critical products and services.

But to reach this objective, effective leaders will have to act on their teams and managers in order to make them more autonomous and independent. Therefore, they empower managers to make the best decisions they can, such as keeping employees safe, followed by whether they are available to perform critical functions. And also, ask the teams to continue to communicate with customers through multiple channels, reinforce that customer interests are a priority and provide information to alleviate their concerns.

This dynamic situation develops the organization’s ability to respond quickly and effectively when the crisis occurs.

Attitude No 2: Develop a robust communication strategy:

Leaders should develop an effective communication during any crisis are crucial to maintaining customer trust, restoring employee morale and confidence, and retaining market stability. Generally, we find 2 types of communication plan:

  • An internal communications plan to reach employees at all levels: set a plan and processes in place to reach all employees with important updates

  • An external communications plan and outline how, when and what to communicate to constituents outside of the organization: such a communications plan to address external constituents, including : news media, investors, clients, partners, analysts...

However, Leaders have to create a strategy to make sur that their organizations should carefully document their communications plan, take note of what communications channels, messaging and approach worked / didn't work based on employee and partners feedback, and then update their plan to use as a template in the future.

Attitude N° 3: be positive and take new opportunities

This crisis demands, now more than ever, a leader’s demonstration of empathy, vulnerability and caring relationships. A leader in the crisis phase must resolve the situation quickly and outline the impact the situation is having at both an organizational and human level. This includes clear and transparent communication that is appropriate for this particular phase.

The business leaders must know the importance of positivity, in terms of both maintaining morale and ensuring the best – and fastest – recovery possible following the crisis. Hone a clear, honest, empathetic and simple approach to communication as the COVID-19 situation evolves.

Attitude N° 4: create a story and make a real planning for the future:

After, this experience leaders should devise new mechanisms, tools and procedures to deal with pandemics and they must consider epidemics an inevitable risk, just like other risks.Leaders should think about the lessons they could learn from the crisis and prepare already for the next crisis. It means not only psychological and intellectual preparation, but a real planning for the possibility of it happening at any time.

By Mohamed Ait Benzaiter, PhD

Deputy General Manager, Menara holding

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