By | Narendra Ambwani | ex CEO Johnson & Johnson | Helping CEO and Senior Leaders Perform Their Best
Covid -19 has posed the biggest challenge ever to all the leaders in every organisation. This is the biggest crisis the world has faced in last 100 years. All international borders are closed for travel, India has been in a long lock out period, which may not end soon. Supply and delivery chains are disrupted. Many migrant workers have gone back home. All offices and most markets are closed. Work from home has posed new challenges of coordination in teams, connectivity, isolation etc. How are you managing and leading? It’s a true test of both your skills and your attitude.
When facing a crisis, as a leader, your mental skills must be at their sharpest and mind uncluttered. Clear thinking is what you need, so that you can direct your resources for right responses promptly. You must free yourself of any tensions and worries. This you can do, by sharply focussing on task on hand on various fronts. Any tension or worries will cloud your thinking, as your mind cannot focus and think rationally. There are two more reasons for you to be calm and composed. First, tensions are bad for your health they can impact your heart directly which has to deal with nervous tensions. Secondly, your tensions reflect on your face and your team mates will notice that boss is under pressure. They in turn, will get even more worried. You are a role model for your team. They look up to you as a senior parent figure. They want your reassurance and confidence in crisis. If you are looking tense, they will start feeling nervous. If they see you as being nervous, they may even panic. You are captain of the aeroplane for your team. Once a plane hits turbulence, all of us get a fright but when the captain announces that it was a turbulence and he is in control and we need not worry, all feel bit relaxed. It is the confidence in voice of the captain that cools nerves of all passengers in the flight! In managing the crisis, you want a fully functional and focused team. All hands on the deck as they say in shipping language.
Some leaders however, behave quite differently in a crisis situation. They have such a strong self-belief or false ego that they think they alone are blessed with solutions to all problems. I call them TTS – as they take Themselves Too Seriously (TTS) and also take every smallest Thing Too Seriously (TTS). They believe they are god’s gift to mankind and may be even God needs to consult them on how to handle a crisis situation! They take full control of everything as they do not believe any other person has capability like them. They feel that they can handle the crisis all by themselves alone. They want to work on every front of the crisis and direct others to follow their instructions. No questions asked. If any one questions their direction they will promptly sack the person and bring a less questioning person as replacement. I am sure you are reminded of some leader, fitting such a personality description. Such TTS leaders are worst leaders for a crisis, specially a crisis of magnitude of Covid-19. No one man alone can manage crisis situation which is posing unprecedented challenges and where scene is rapidly changing. Capable and empowered teams, on the ground, can respond more effectively. But TTS leaders cannot delegate as they do not trust anyone.
How will you ensure that you remain calm, composed and a true leader of crisis? Here are few tips
- Believe in capability and commitments of your team members
- Make empowered teams close to ground level to act fast and effectively to respond to emerging challenges
- Provide the teams good leaders and flexibility to take decision without reference to you. They take direction and run their shows. Consult you only on really risky and high investment situations.
- Play the role of being a father figure, in addition to being a great manager to motivate your team by backing them. Also take care of emotional support to team
- Recognise importance of your health and wellbeing. Your unfortunate disability during the crisis will be a huge setback for your organization. So make conscious effort to be physically healthy and mentally sharp.
- Be realistic and grounded. Have faith in your team to pull thru with innovative approaches. Not everything is equally vital in crisis. Keep your focus on issues where your expertise will be most valuable. Leave the rest to your empowered teams. You must focus on future of post Covid period and upcoming challenges.
- Sell HOPE. That is the key role of you as CEO leader.
- Most important – SMILE. Your smile will cheer of all around you. The crisis will help you and your team emerge stronger than ever!