“Any kind of crisis is good. It wakes you up.”- Ryan Reynolds
2020 was a great teacher for all of us. It imparted valuable life lessons such as preparing for the future, learning how to adapt as change is inevitable, and simply surviving and staying sane and grounded. In the field of leadership, it taught all of us the value of soft skills and emotional intelligence.
Leaders in this time of pandemic face a lot of challenges such as but not limited to:
- Change of working environment (most companies suddenly shifted to a remote workforce)
- Difficult decisions regarding furlough, layoffs, and employee retention
- Maintaining and rebuilding supply chains
- Innovating to adapt to new market realities
- Keeping employees motivated and productive
- Ultimately keeping the business afloat
With all of these, leaders more than ever need to be effective in being influential with their teams. So what kind of leadership is required in this new normal?
Today’s employees look to their leaders for empathetic guidance. They appreciate kindness and compassion as they try to handle these unsettling times. Gone are the days when leaders are emotionless robots who show no care for the people around them.
To be an empathetic leader, proactively show your care for your team members by asking how they are. This holds especially true if the team is always on virtual set-ups. Human interaction is more difficult if you are not interacting face-to-face with the person. So try to inject a talk with your team members before diving into the work-related discussion.
Leaders need to share how they are feeling as well too. No, this does not mean to overshare. Again, being an effective leader does not mean being emotionless. It means that you can feel a range of emotions yet still being able to make sound, logical decisions for the business. You can let your guard down a little and let them know that you feel horrible about letting some employees go. Employees will appreciate the honesty and will even support you as you go on that journey.
Employees expect transparent communication even more now that there is a crisis. A Forbes article states “Employees want to be a part of a workplace culture that puts a premium on delivering the truth…they just want transparency so they can plan and protect themselves.”
How to do this? Update the team on the status of the company. Keep it simple so as it is easy to digest. It is better to ensure every employee is receiving pertinent information than to leave them wondering what is happening or receiving second-hand information. Also, provide a platform for employees to ask their questions or give their suggestions. This will help keep them engaged and have a feeling of a safe environment in the organization.
Coaching does not only happen not when you need to correct something from a team member. You can also say you have coached someone whenever you ask them about their current realities and difficulties and lead them into thinking of options to overcome the challenge. You are also being a coach when you affirm a good job, behavior, or effort that was exuded.
Remain optimistic, but realistic
Back then, a leader needs to be optimistic so that people will have something that will spark hope. In the new normal, leaders should remain optimistic because employees are most likely looking to leaders for support and motivation to keep them going even if times are tough and uncertain. However, leaders should balance optimism with the reality of the situation.
That said, you also have to guard optimism from delusion. Being optimistic can’t mean lying to or deceiving those around you–or especially yourself. It means being honest, acknowledging both the good and the bad in the situation, the lessons learned, the opportunities ahead, and the growth to come.
Yes, leaders need to be good in technical skills and in managing the work. But since leaders are leading humans, they also need emotional intelligence and soft skills. In our uncertain and volatile world today, people want something that can give them a sense of security and reliability. This is the challenge now for all leaders.