By, Stuart R. Levine
Published in, Forbes
Leaders show their values through their actions and words. Leadership and values are inseparably linked. Today, it seems that among personal and organizational values, trust is paramount. Covid-19 is now ravaging the ways that companies have done business for decades, challenging and changing business routines. People are uncertain and fear abounds. Everyone’s world has been disrupted, and the level of expected change going forward is immense. We are not simply “going back to work” when the crisis lightens up. Even going back to work is a strategic exercise involving levels of trust concerning everyone’s health and safety and involves an added unprecedented regulatory dimension. We could see more change in the coming months than we have seen over the last 20 years.
Great leaders demonstrate and communicate how these tough times can bring out the best in themselves and their people. Leaders are connecting at a personal level in many admirable ways, and for some, in ways they have never done before. They share their stories one human being to another and encourage others to do the same. They acknowledge that in just months, massive unemployment has replaced a tight labor market and people are afraid. For many, attention to career advancement is now being replaced with attention to remaining employed, and focus on the safety, health and needs of one’s self and family. When leaders understand this dynamic and show authenticity, compassion and humility in acknowledging it, this generates trust. Compassion means that people’s concerns will be addressed first and foremost, honestly and truthfully.
Great leaders are confident, and self-confident enough to be humble. Humility is a strength that causes a leader to be alert, nimble, aware, and knowing that the answers mostly reside collectively in others. Humility means that the way forward through this crisis is an enterprise-wide exercise that will take the resourcefulness and genius of everyone to make required change happen, including change around new ways of working. No one person has all the answers, including the corner office. Instead of instructing people on what to do, through word and deed the leader inspires curiosity, creativity and collaboration to capture the best thinking of everyone. People want to make a difference and know they matter. In normal times, leaders harness this energy to reach organizational goals. But in these pandemic times, the organizational energy must be harnessed to reimagine the business and the workplace to emerge stronger in a post-Covid-19 world.
Values determine the critical choices that leaders make in these pivotal times. Errors in strategic direction and communication can have exponential consequences. Organizations must make rapid decisions simply to survive. Values guide a great leader to show a willingness to trust people with the truth and to listen effectively. They help the organization work together to define a way forward. They appreciate that no one person has all the answers, including the corner office.
Trusting people with the truth means authentically sharing and communicating the best information possible about the situation at hand. The news and the data may not be favorable, but leaders trust their people with it. Information is critical to the collaboration and co-creation that these times require. People need good information to allow the needed changes to arise from within the organization. When employees help in determining the way forward, they buy in. They trust that the decisions that will affect them were well considered and involved their input.
Great leaders see seeds of opportunity, even in a crisis and help their people to see them as well. In many ways, this disruption is turning every business into a quasi-start-up. The new emerging and evolving “normal” could require re-examining revenue models that worked just months ago to uncover increased efficiency and growth. Some companies may face a startup-like pivot to build completely new models. These times require everyone to try new things, fail and succeed at new things, and be transparent about the results. This takes leadership based on trust. This is an opportunity to emerge from the crisis with your people rededicated to the company’s mission and to create stronger employee and customer loyalty.
People want their leaders to bring out the best in them. They want to be part of a common purpose. Great leaders inspire the trust that generates hope and optimism that comes from everyone creating a better future together. Hope is the antidote to fear.