Pandemic World Calls for Agile and Transparent Leadership

How do you take charge in a pandemic world? Given the unpredictable qualities of the enemy that is the coronavirus, the leaders who act quickly and with a spirit of transparency will emerge as the winners. And whether you are still struggling with the crisis or are fortifying yourself for the hard road ahead, it is imperative that digital tools become a core of your arsenal.

That, in a nutshell, describes the evolving, emergent face of a new kind of leadership, created by the unprecedented medical, economic, and even societal disruptions confronting us. If our organizations are to ride this wave and adapt to the end, our leaders must learn and use the following lessons:

Agility supported by transparency

The role model for this idyllic trait points New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, according to The Harvard Business Review 

The nation was already feeling the strain that the spread of infection was causing on its medical systems around February; the government had declared a level-2 crisis by then. But when cases of the infected reached more than 200, Ardern recognized the spike as a level-4 crisis which necessitated a nationwide lockdown. There was no uncertainty, ambiguity, and hesitation in her decision. She and her government acted rapidly given the facts at hand.

Her decisiveness and clarity also engendered nationwide support. During her groundbreaking eight-minute speech on live television on March 21, the Prime Minister explained clearly why the lockdown was necessary, what her constituents stood to gain after it was lifted—and the sacrifices that were expected of them. The last words in that speech rallied the people and prepared them for what lay ahead of them: “Please be strong, be kind, and unite against COVID-19.”

Synergy with informal networks

One positive thing that the pandemic awakened is citizen participation. Both the government sector and the private industries found themselves relying on the support of communities, groups, industry associations, and even concerned individuals. As the London School of Economics and Political Science recounts it, medical professionals all over Europe rushed to hospitals and medical centers overwhelmed with patients, but crippled by the lack of resources. It is a scene that is continually being replicated in the United States and other parts of the world. 

Forbes does remind us that this kind of spontaneous, dynamic synergy builds up once red tape is cut down. Unnecessary bureaucracy and traditional structures that can inadvertently block the flow of volunteer support should be reduced, if not totally eliminated. Leaders should be courageous enough to make this call when the time comes.

Digital and tech savviness

As the practitioners in Silicon Valley have long known, a pivot to digital savviness, if not mastery, is inevitable if a company is to survive, let alone grow. 

Traditional brick-and-mortar companies started contracting digital marketers to build ecommerce sites that could retain their customers who were no longer visiting their stores. IT managers worked closely with their human resource peers to transition a majority of the workforce into remote work. Restaurant owners relied on apps to make food deliveries for their customers.

Leaders of the new normal would have to be digital masters, and not just digital natives. They must be able to assess quickly the kind of tech that their brands need to extend a business operation or to corner a preferred market.

Their knowledge of the right app and software can create effective, compelling communications campaigns that can encourage their demoralized staff—and with the right message, inspire them to bounce back. And at the same time, resurrect the organization with them.