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Leadership & Empowerment

Business Leadership Role In Crises Of Covid-19

Leaders need to be sensitive not to overdo or stoke fear and unease among the employees in the organisation

Photo by Matteo Vistocco on Unsplash

What happened recently with the global pandemic was well documented and is readily available for minute-by-minute update. Efforts by all government ministries to mitigate the spread, and alleviate the public of their miseries are applauded. SMEs business owners are greatly affected by the crises particularly their cash flow situations and sustainability. Government stimulus packages do provide some relief, but moving forward, good business leadership are more critical. 

For SME business leaders, it is imperative to evaluate their positions and start to think on 2 key areas. One, what can be done immediately to keep their present business stay afloat, and two, strategic plans to sustain the business further. Business as usual may take on a different meaning after this.

Remaining active and being relevant in the midst of this crisis takes great leadership ability, insight and strong determination. This not only affects their livelihood, but that of their employees and their families. Question is, what are the leadership qualities needed to steer companies in times of crises?

Typically, traits such as intelligence, charisma, analytical skills, and confidence are important in building a well-grounded leader, but in challenging times, leadership calls for greater commitment and resolve. Some other qualities are discussed below.

The need to be honest. Being honest is to convey the information correctly in the proper context. This calls for being transparent in stating it realistically to help build credibility for the leaders. Employees are more responsive when being honest to and even provide creative solutions, and start to think outside the box in solving problems. Leaders need to be sensitive not to overdo or stoke fear and unease among the employees in the organisation.

Be Empathic. Employees need to feel they belong as part of the bigger organisation. This inspires employees and motivates them to go the extra mile in making contributions to the organisation. Employees’ emotions may be unstable with news media running up the business downturn and impending recession. Important for leaders to be empathic, take control, offer assurance and start talking to the employees, and see them as individual people. Tell them that they are part of the solutions and that you care for them.

Be Decisive. Be able to sum up the situation quickly and make tough decisions that may be unpopular. Evaluate the facts and information, take calculated risks and decide the next course of actions. Leaders learn from mistakes, monitor situations closely, and act systematically. They are adaptable and open to make new decisions to mitigate situations and take remedial actions. The cost of doing nothing is nothing, but at the expense of the business.

Project Confidence. The employees look up to confident leaders they can depend upon. Leaders need to be alert in the mind, be self-aware, be resilient, and keep a positive outlook. They become a stabilising factor in times of stress and uncertainty. Crucial not to mislead, overpromise, be overoptimistic or project insecurity.

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate. Leaders need to communicate frequently in a structured manner and listen to the audience, i.e. internal and external parties, employees, investors, board members, vendors, the customers and the media. Important for messages to be clear, concise, timely, focused and addresses the issues at hand. Listening to their stakeholders will bring the issues in proper perspectives, provide relevant data and evidence to the informed audience to make the right decisions.

What about leadership at the workplace? As they say in times of crises, “This too shall pass” underscore the temporary nature of the challenging times. This, in the hope that the organisations and the employees emerge stronger, resilient and more robust once it’s over. It is imperative the employees are well prepared to “rough” out at the workplace, begin to focus and become determined to see an end to the chaotic situations.

Open Communication. Encourage QCC or similar circles involving different employees from the various departments to share the issues. Prepare topics or discussions and be ready to do Brainstorming, Root Cause Analysis (RCA), Mind-Mapping or other diagnostic tools to seek solutions. Structure the circle to solve specific issues, evaluate and articulate the necessary recommendations and implementations plan.

Coaching Approach. This is based on the premise that the employees do have the solutions or proposals at hand, only thing they have often in the past been told what to do. The coaching approach turns “telling” to “asking” powerful questions and listening techniques to get the best from the employees. This will increase their morale and become part of the solutions.

Do More. Employees are encouraged not to just achieve their targets or tasks assigned but to do more in the quest to become an employee of value that merits recognition or status. A systematic appraisal system that is applicable to employees at all levels in the organisation allows them to strive and give extra effort during this challenging time and be duly recognised for the performance.

Empowerment. Avoid silos as everyone is in the same boat. The employees are empowered to discuss and present solutions within the entire chain of the organisation and bring up to top management for evaluation. 

Continuous Learning. Crisis is an opportunity to learn new things and be prepared to see things from different viewpoints. Learning from others is part of the continuous learning process and employees are encouraged to do so. Learn to look from strategic and operational perspectives, and be aware of the differences.

Leadership in times of crises demands new ways of thinking. If you continue to do what you did, you’ll likely get the same results. Covid 19 inevitably set new meaning and outlook in leadership business practices. Importantly leaders need to be alert and ready to adapt to a new business order after this.

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Faisal Malik
Written By

Mohamad Faisal is a Principal, Faisal Malik & Co (Chartered Accountant). With 22 years of experience in financial and corporate advisory, learning development, and strategic consulting, he has served various financial positions in Fortune 100s within the region prior to his business advisory venture. He is a council member on several professional bodies and an industry adviser to several Malaysia local universities including University of Malaya. Follow him on LinkedIn.

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