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Leadership Today - Practical Tips For Leaders

Mar 13, 2020


In this week’s Leadership Today podcast we explore ten tips for leading others through the Coronavirus pandemic. Like any other crisis, this too shall pass. Now is the time to lead others in a way that leaves our people and organisations in a stronger position once the crisis is over. 



Hello and welcome to episode 70 of the Leadership Today podcast where each week we tackle one of today’s biggest leadership challenges. This week we explore 10 tips for leading others through the coronavirus pandemic.

It is March 2020 and the world is in the grip of a global virus pandemic. Individuals, organisations, cities and even entire countries are moving towards isolation in an attempt to slow down the spread. Travel is becoming increasingly difficult. Family members are separated from each other. Relatives are unwell. Major events and sporting seasons are cancelled. Share markets are in free fall. Supply chains are impacted. Businesses are grinding to a halt. It all sounds like the start of a science fiction movie. But this is all a very real challenge for leaders.

Given all of this, even our most resilient people are likely to be experiencing uncertainty and fear. Each morning they wake up to hear yet more bad news. They’re worried about their health, their families, their friends and their jobs. While there are some similarities to the global financial crisis from a business perspective, the impact on the day-to-day lives of our people is much greater. 

At the very moment where leaders are at risk of becoming distracted and distant, they need to become more focused and present.

Here are 10 tips for leading others through the coronavirus pandemic:

  1. Be informed and prepared. Do your research from reputable sources. Keep up to date with information and instructions from your local health and government services. Consider the full range of impacts for your organisation and people. Choose not to be caught up in the online and media frenzy.

  2. Turn up each day. As I reflect on leading during the global financial crisis, one thing I would change is the amount of time I spent with other members of the leadership team versus how much time I spent with my own people. It’s really tempting to bunker down with your fellow leaders - after all, who better to understand the pressures you’re facing? But that’s the very point our people need us.

  3. Provide as much clarity as you can. Be as open as you can with your people about the plans in place and likely eventualities.

  4. Remain calm. As a leader you need to instil well-founded confidence. Emotions are infectious, whether we are face-to-face or via phone or video. People are looking to leaders to set the emotional tone. Yes, this is serious, but you can still be warm and smile. 

  5. Demonstrate genuine interest in others. It’s tempting to focus a lot on ourselves, so we need to ensure we continue to ask a lot of open questions. Find out how people are doing, and any practical steps that can be taken to make their lives easier. Listen for what is said and not said. Think about the implications of your actions from their perspective.

  6. Provide meaningful work. This one is particularly critical.  Beyond spikes of activity as organisations reshape their plans, people are likely to be less busy than usual. Help people to focus on meaningful work and projects that will continue their development and strengthen the organisation. 

  7. Check-in regularly via video. Thanks to mobile technology we all have the potential to stay in touch through video conversations. Video calls are the next best thing to face-to-face conversations. If your organisation doesn’t have a platform for this, find one that works. Services like FaceTime, Zoom and Skype all have free options so there’s no excuse.

  8. Invite others to connect. Rather than just connecting downwards, encourage people to connect across the organisation. Suggest they use messaging and team productivity platforms to see how people are going. These casual interactions are something that’s easy to take for granted when it’s business as usual, and they can make a big difference in helping people to feel connected and supported. 

  9. Don’t miss the opportunities. It’s easy to focus on the threats, but there are always opportunities. Moments of crisis define you as a leader and your organisation as an employer. Use this as an opportunity to up-skill staff, to have them work on longer-term projects, and to prepare and strengthen the organisation.

  10. Don’t do it alone. Find a trusted colleague with whom you can share your concerns, ideas and frustrations. Stay close to your own leader and provide as much support as you can.

Like any other crisis, this too shall pass. Now is the time to lead others in a way that leaves our people and organisations in a stronger position once the crisis is over. As always, I hope you found this podcast helpful. Look after yourselves out there! If there are any ways we can help here at Leadership Today please contact us via our website - we’re always happy to run some ideas past you and swap some thoughts. Have a great week, and I look forward to speaking with you again next week.