Like everything else these days, the notion of leadership is undergoing a radical transformation. At its core, leadership is fluid and evolving, but leading through a crisis requires an entirely different mindset and approach — not to mention intestinal fortitude. There’s no playbook for leading through an unprecedented crisis and many of the prescribed notions of what works are subject to change on a daily basis.
Just ask any leader of any company that has had to deal with the current COVID-19 pandemic. Between keeping their company afloat; caring for their staff and assuaging their fear and anxiety -— and ensuring guests remain safe through the turbulent days of this pandemic — today’s leaders have been tested in ways no one could have imagined.
Leaders will also admit that, at the best of times, leading is challenging. As leadership guru Peter Drucker once said, “Leadership is an achievement of trust. You know what to expect, and you see performance and achievement…Leadership means getting the right things done.”
But getting things done through a pandemic means something quite different. In fact, in recent months, most leaders have become acutely focused on just keeping their business afloat.
Through it all, leaders have been forced to keep the lines of communication open. In this month’s profiles of seven industry leaders, the common thread was the need to keep staff apprised of what was happening, which meant leaders turned to regular meetings to check the pulse of their team, keep them motivated and ensure everyone felt heard.
Similarly, leaders have been required to react more quickly to make decisions, pivot in new areas and tackle challenges with calm, certainty and confidence.
While we may not know how long this crisis will last, what we do know for certain is that this period has forced every leader to re-examine their business in an entirely different light and to realize pivoting to new areas and being nimble were not only necessary but vital. As Drucker stated, “The most effective way to manage change successfully is to create it. One cannot manage change, one can only be ahead of it. In a period of upheavals… change is the norm. To be sure, it is painful and risky, and, above all, it requires a great deal of very hard work. But, unless it is seen as the task of the organization to lead change, the organization will not survive.”
Though Drucker’s comments were made years ago, and he was clearly not talking about the pandemic, his comments still ring true all these years later — especially as we move into month six of this world-wide turbulence.