The Four Leadership Challenges of the Covid World

We remain in curious times, despite the welcome easing of UK lockdown restrictions. This marks a gradual return to activity for many business sectors, although it is too soon to tell what this really means, and we will continue to face an uncertain, ambiguous and potentially volatile future.

We see four inter-connected challenges for leaders in the coming months:

Maintaining safety

Until the virus dies out naturally or we develop a reliable vaccine, we’re going to be living with COVID. As well as the physical and practical steps to reduce virus transmission, leaders need to consider how to create psychological safety too. This applies to your employees, customers, suppliers and stakeholders.  Without psychological safety, people will suffer more stress and anxiety, feel less confident, and are likely to under-perform as their wellbeing declines as a result. In order to create the conditions for psychological safety, leaders need to attend carefully to their people’s basic human needs for control and certainty. This means giving people as much choice as possible, so they don’t feel compelled to take risks, and providing simple, clear guidelines and plans.

Improving the performance of dispersed teams

The lockdown has been a massive forced experiment in remote working. The results have been mixed, with some businesses and teams making a relatively smooth transition to almost BAU, while others have struggled to get up to speed with technology and work processes.  We have heard many clients say that this experience has disproved the doubters who had been resistant to flexible working. The big question now is what next? We know of few businesses that are rushing to a wholesale return to the office, most are contemplating a hybrid home / office format, and some have realised they can make massive savings by maintaining remote working and letting go of expensive office space.  This means that the key challenge is now to improve team effectiveness in this new world. Team leaders need to master new skills to maximise the benefits of technology, and adapt the basics of good communication, coaching, feedback and delegation. Team members need to learn how to learn without frequent in-person contact, and how to sustain their personal energy and wellbeing when working from home.

Navigating a complex world

We already lived in a complex, inter-connected world; the COVID pandemic has simply made these conditions more visible and accelerated the need to develop new leadership capabilities. We haven’t lived in a straightforward world, in which a single heroic leader to knows what to do, for some time. The way we usually think about leadership needs to evolve, fast. Rather than seeing leaders as individual heroes, we need to start thinking of leaders as coaches and explorers, hearth holders and agitators, all working together in service of a shared purpose. These roles will be essential as we tackle new and unexpected challenges.

Seizing opportunities to reinvent

Much has been made of the pandemic as an opportunity to make a fresh start. This possibility is far from certain, because most people prefer the known to the unknown. Left to our own devices, we will simply return to the way things were. Although this may seem a safe option, leaders need to seize the moment to reconnect with their purpose, reimagine their future and reinvent how their businesses create value for their customers and employees alike. This will not be easy, but the organisations that do so now will be the ones that thrive in the coming decade.

Mezzana Partners role

We work with leaders and their teams, because we know that this is fastest and most effective way to help businesses face these challenges. By doing so, businesses can go beyond survival and start to learn how to thrive, even in the COVID world.

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