This is a guest article by Stuart R. Levine, Chairman and CEO, Stuart Levine & Associates and EduLeader
“Leadership is responsibility.” Today’s Covid-19 crisis makes Peter Drucker’s quote truer than ever. As the pandemic radically changes ways that companies do business, people are uncertain. Fear abounds. Leaders are responsible for even more now as their employees, including their senior managers, are facing unprecedented levels of change and stress.
Massive unemployment has replaced a tight labor market in just months. Office settings and the related cultures are being threatened by working at home. For many employees, climbing the corporate ladder is replaced by a worry about continuing to be able to work, and to provide for the basic needs, safety, and the health of loved ones.
With this unprecedented level of disruption, a leader’s values come into sharp focus. They send powerful messages through words and deeds about what is important for the organization. People look to leadership for guidance and comfort. Trust is paramount. Outstanding leaders in normal times are expected to exhibit vision, authenticity, confidence, and courage.
Now their humanity, compassion, and humility are fully front and center. It’s these values that generate trust. Leaders need to connect on a personal level – checking in on their employees' needs and understanding that suddenly working from home creates difficulty and uncertainty.
Employees must adapt rapidly to changing times, and organizations must make rapid decisions to survive. Agility, adaptability, and resilience are indispensable and are dependent on the culture built by leadership. Leaders have a responsibility to provide learning and tools to stabilize and develop employees for the changing work environment and changing world.
Leadership’s consideration of “going back to work” is a strategic exercise concerning everyone’s health and safety and involves an added unprecedented regulatory dimension. Many companies do not see themselves back in offices for months or longer. A recent Gartner CFO survey indicated that about 75% of CFOs expect some of their employees to remain remote which helps with cost savings as well. 25% surveyed expect 10% to remain remote and 17% expect 20% to remain remote. Companies must prepare for more change in the coming months than they have seen over the last 20 years.
Great leaders trust people with the truth and they appreciate collaborative results. Everyone likes good news and optimistic forecasts, but only if they are grounded in facts and data. They trust the decisions that result when they have helped to create the strategy to move forward based upon accurate data and information. This process inspires the trust that collaboration and co-creation require. How the months ahead are handled by leadership will define each organization’s path going forward.
Mr. Stuart R. Levine is Chairman of the Board and CEO of STUART LEVINE & ASSOCIATES. Mr. Levine has significant board and executive leadership experience across multiple disciplines including financial services, technology and healthcare specializing in strategy, large-scale change management, leadership development, strategic communication, board governance and customer focus.
He is the author of the following international best-selling books: The Six Fundamentals of Success (Random House) Cut to the Chase (Random House) and The Leader in You (Simon & Schuster), published in 37 languages and 1.2 million hard copies sold.
He is the former global CEO for Dale Carnegie Training and recognized as a Governance Fellow by the NACD. He was named Top 100 Director and has been instrumental in developing NACD Directorship Certification. He won the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award.
STUART LEVINE & ASSOCIATES is an international consulting and leadership development company with a 25+ year track record of successful strategic organizational consultation. creates significant value for shareholders and strong organizational cultures through best-practice governance models, strategic thinking and execution with increased CEO/C-Suite leadership capacity at global leading organizations. A sampling of these include Verizon (NYSE: VZ), Barclays Bank (NYSE: BCS), Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Protiviti, The Howard Hughes Corporation (NYSE: HHC), Juniper Networks (NYSE: JNPR), MasterCard (NYSE: MA), Georgia Pacific (NYSE: GP), Saatchi & Saatchi, Montefiore Health System and Bethpage Federal Credit Union.
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