Five Essential Leadership Traits Required Now
As stay-at-home orders are being relaxed and employees are returning to work, leaders have the unprecedented challenge of navigating an uncharted journey—one that is complicated by the numerous variables that confront our workforce. For me, the now oft-quoted statement by Damian Barr resonates with the time:
“We are not all in the same boat. We are all in the same storm”
Barr’s metaphor provides a reminder to all leaders that the teams they manage are comprised of individuals, each with his/her own unique set of personal circumstances, including homeschooling children, caring for elderly relatives, isolating due to potential exposure, underlying health conditions, etc. Many boats; one storm.
In the workplace, leaders need to be the constant in the storm. To better understand how leaders can perform at their best and provide a way forward during crises, Gallup looked to the past.[i] The organization examined global citizens’ responses in every major crisis, from The Great Depression to 9/11 to the present COVID-19 pandemic, and concluded that leaders who articulate a clear way forward inspire resilience in their employees. According to Gallup, followers look to leaders for:
So, how will you chart the course for your organization as employees return to a workplace that may need to operate differently from its pre-COVID form? Most certainly, there will be new protocols in place. Most likely, 100 percent of your workforce will not be present at the same time. Yet, the organization’s mission and vision will likely remain unchanged.
Organization goals will still need to be met. How you go about trying to fulfill your goals can and will make the difference.
Now, it is especially important to take time for one-on-one communication with each member of your staff. Invest time to understand each individual’s circumstances and what accommodation is needed to enable them to contribute to your team. This is a critical action to continue to build trust and to demonstrate compassion. It opens the door for brainstorming and collaborating on how best each can contribute to the enterprise.
The coronavirus crisis is requiring organizations and individuals to be nimble with respect to how work is done. Being flexible, yet not losing sight of the need to meet goals, is vital to providing stability in your workplace – i.e. we may not be working together in the same space, but we are working to achieve the same organizational outcomes.
By accommodating needs, working through concerns and further refining ideas on how to move forward, goals can be met or exceeded. Leaders who champion this approach create work environments where people want to do their best and feel comfortable sharing their concerns, realities and ideas for moving forward. This also builds loyalty.
Working through issues together creates trust, establishes stability for the short term, and provides hope for the future.
One final trait I consider essential for leaders to display during a time of crisis is humility. “The most successful companies will be those whose leaders practice humility, admit mistakes, listen to new and innovative ideas, and create space and opportunities for employees to help.”[ii]
A lot is being required of leaders as the world moves through the COVID-19 storm. It is humbling and, therefore, commands humility. Nobody has all the answers. Humility allows for change based on new information emerging and better ideas coming forward to address employee and customer needs. When team members witness that new ideas are welcome, they are more inclined to offer their suggestions or to build on other ideas to make outcomes better.
Leaders who embody these five essential traits can successfully navigate the challenges brought by COVID-19 and help shape the culture of their organizations moving forward.
How can executive coaching help you or your organization as we return to work during these uncharted times?
Lance Hazzard, CPCC, ACC, is a certified Intelligent Leadership Executive Coach helping people and organizations successfully achieve what’s next. He is Executive Coach and President at Oppnå® Executive & Achievement Coaching. Lance and Eric T. Hicks, Ph.D., co-authored the book, Accelerating Leadership, published in June 2019 and now also available as an e-book. More information can be found on the book, Lance and Oppnå® Coaching at the links below:
[i] Jim Harter, “COVID-19: What Employees Need From Leadership Right Now,” Gallup Workplace, March 23, 2020
[ii] Garrett Shaffer, “Look for the Helpers: Humble Leadership in Times of Crisis,” Hogan BLOG, April 10, 2020