Right now, we are in an unprecedented time of uncertainty. The Covid-19 pandemic has thrown our economy and our collective health into disarray. As a leader, you are probably being asked how all of this will affect people’s jobs, their livelihoods and the company as a whole.
These are tough questions without easy or clear answers. Leaders I work with are having to make challenging decisions nearly hourly about work from home protocols, travel restrictions, outside visitors to the company’s offices and benefits for those affected by the virus. Corporate communication leaders are faced with communicating these decisions in a way that shows both clarity and decisiveness in the face of rapidly changing circumstances.
As a leader, what can you do? First and foremost, remember you can only do your best under the circumstances you are in. It is important to remember that every decision and action we take right now is about doing the best we can with the information we have in that particular moment. There may be more information coming and that information may change your decision but for now, you simply need to decide based on what you know.
Be willing to change courses as needed. This is not a time to make a plan and rigidly follow it. If there was ever a time for agility and flexibility, this is it. Be clear for now and equally clear that whatever decision you make will be temporal. That does not weaken your leadership, rather it strengthens it by showing your willingness to shift and change as new information becomes available and circumstances change.
Remember that every decision you make, every conversation you have and every person you discuss this issue with is exactly that – a human being – with a family, with health challenges and other interests beyond the workplace. They, like you, are weighing a whole host of factors as they consider how they will respond and react to the pandemic. Getting sick affects the economic health and productivity of companies, and the ripple effect in people’s lives and personal orbits is far greater.
Along the same lines, it is okay to show your concern, fear and uncertainty, provided that you do so in a conscious way. I am not suggesting that leaders should break down or scream and cry in front of those they lead. However, it is okay to show emotion, to express your own personal concerns and to let everyone around you know that you are a leader and also a person.
Self-management is always a critically important leadership success principle and it is no less important now. Those who lead with emotional intelligence as they confront the various effects of this global crisis will find themselves in stronger positions than those who forget about this important aspect of this issue.
In short, leaders frequently face some level of uncertainty, great or small. Since we are currently facing one of the most uncertain times in our collective history, the qualities that you have led with during other times of uncertainty are the same ones to draw on today. Do you best with the information you currently have, be flexible and willing to shift courses, leverage your EQ and, most importantly, remember that we’re all human.