Lead Amidst the Challenges of the Covid-19 Crisis

The Covid-19 crisis shows us opportunities that most of us have not seen before. Leaders, this is the best time to demonstrate our leadership.

As the coronavirus spreads around the world, leaders face unique, if not unprecedented, challenges. 

Many so-called charismatic leaders, those who thought of themselves as geniuses, are imploding. 

And some leaders are calm, confident, and compassionate in handling this crazy crisis.

I don’t know if the Philippines has the longest community quarantine in the world. But our worsening situation makes a lot of Filipinos anxious. There is a universal feeling that our leaders are not doing enough. 

Sabi nga ng kaibigan ko, pinagkakakitaan lang daw tayo. Hindi ko alam. Wag naman sana.

But this is no excuse. We can be the leaders we wished we had. It is our leadership that will make a more significant difference. 

Tayo kasi ang lilikha ng ating kinabukasan.

We are the leaders who can help our organization bounce forward and thrive.

It doesn’t matter if we lead 50 or 5000. What’s important is that we become the leaders our people need during these tough times. 

Today’s organizations need leaders who are humble, strong-willed, and agile. We need leaders who value transparency and authentic communication. And more importantly, we need forward-looking leaders.

Be humble and strong-willed.

The coronavirus will affect everyone, but not equally. In times of crisis, leaders have to make decisions that require humility and strong-will. People expect you to protect their interests.

The financial damage caused by coronavirus is enormous. The toll on the bottom-line kept investors sleepless. They want leaders to protect their interests.

Employees are afraid they’ll lose their jobs. I know of an office worker who has to spend 400 pesos for transportation so hey can keep his job that pays 600 pesos. I know of employees who don’t know if there is still a job for them as they are in floating status for more than 30 days. 

But during these times, leaders must show people that they care. Most workers do not understand how much money your company is losing. What they know is that they are losing their livelihood if you won’t protect their interests. They need leaders who listen to them too.

Leaders must accept that they don’t have all the answers. They need to listen to their people. Humility is vital to understand the problem.

We have seen how braggadocio won’t help. We don’t have to look far; we have leaders who did not listen to us. 

Remember the spokesperson who said that there is nothing to worry about Covid-19. He said that we only need to eat malunggay. Or that one who said the government could not issue a travel ban because the government does not want to anger China? I don’t forget that easily.

The problem is obviously outside their areas of expertise. 

Sure, leaders must make decisions for themselves. They cannot listen to everyone at all times. But during a crisis, leaders must encourage participation, especially when the problem is outside their expertise.

And we have also seen how strong-willed leaders make things happen. There are times when leaders need to take decisive action. Vietnam and New Zealand come to mind.

 If our government decided to conduct contact tracing and extensive testing, we wouldn’t be in our situation today. Instead, they chose to copy the Trumpian argument that the virus will disappear in April 2020. They did not listen to experts, which is against our interest.

We don’t have to be like them. You are a frontline leader. Your employees need you now.

Be humble. Listen more often. Understand where people are so you can find solutions with them.

Be willing to do what is unpopular so you can protect the common good. The welfare of your people is more important than money and politics. 

Be agile and find new solutions.

This coronavirus is unpredictable. Doctors are learning new things about this virus almost every week, but there are still many unknowns. But they chose not to wait and see. They don’t want to lose more lives.

It is easy to be overwhelmed and surrender. Stupid as it may sound, some leaders don’t want to do anything until a vaccine is available.  

Agile leaders do not wait for the situation to be favorable. They look at the situation and change their solutions when necessary. They don’t stick to the same-old-same-old solution. They find ways.

We need agile leaders in smaller organizations too.

Agile leaders adapt their leadership to people. They don’t insist on traditional styles. They study what works with people and adjust their approaches. 

Leaders who are quick to call their employees “pasaway” lack understanding. Employees act within their context. Walk on their shoes. Be willing to change your plans and policies so you can make things work.

I find that Filipinos, in general, are obedient. They don’t question policies unless what the authorities want is detached from their realities.

Find out what prevents your people from doing what you require them to do. Help them get rid of the obstacle.

Be transparent and communicate with sincerity.

Only a few people demand that you tell them everything that you do. You don’t have to. Being transparent does not mean that you’ll report everything that you are doing. That would be insane, if not time-wasting.

Being transparent demands that you tell employees what they need to know so that they can navigate in the middle of the storm and participate in solving problems.

After Yolanda hit the Philippines, it took the government two days before telling us, the people, about the situation. By the time the President appeared on TV, there were already millions of information, mostly false and baseless, that captured Filipinos imagination. They listen to false and baseless information because we cannot live in a vacuum.

In Today’s Philippines, we have a President who hold Press conferences at the 11th hour. Each time, he fails to tell us the situation, what he has done, what he is going to do, and what we can do together.

It feels that politicians are hiding something. It feels like politicians are pulling our legs. It might be that they were working on solutions, but our politicians fail to convey that. Instead, what we get from our news feeds daily are proofs of corruption and incompetence. 

Employees won’t trust leaders’ words when they feel that leaders are hiding something employees need to know. People won’t believe your words when you tell them that there is nothing you can do because you can do something.

Leaders look forward to a better normal.

This crisis will pass. I don’t know when. Maybe, in 2021 or 2022. Or earlier. If we’ll wait and see before we act, we will be wasting our time. We will miss the opportunity to build a better normal.

Let me explain. 

People are afraid. They want to know if your company will survive the virus. They want to see if they’ll keep their jobs.

We inspire people to a shared vision during good times. It was easy to paint a great future when everything is sunshiny. 

People need to see the future today. 

People follow leaders who stick to the purposes of the organization. It shows that you can walk the talk even in crazy times. Today is the real test of your leadership. 

Leaders who believe in their dreams are forward-looking. They embrace the reality of the crisis and find seeds of opportunities.

Forward-looking leaders will help people bounce forward and thrive. They’ll be able to accelerate the growth of their organizations. They’ll create new products, services, and experiences they’ve not seen before.

Help your leaders see beyond coronavirus. I look forward so I can bounce forward. You can too.

When You Need My Help

Most people get to see this page because they are looking for a professional speaker who can help them build their leaders. Although I can hold sessions for small groups in some areas in the Philippines, I know we should stay home.

I can help much better with virtual platforms. When you have many employees, we can conduct a virtual learning session for twenty to two thousand people. 

Cool, right? 

Before the pandemic, you need to book a meeting or a conference room to get your people trained. Now, you will save hundreds of thousands. You can get your people to access learning anywhere — and anytime to watch a replay.

The Covid-19 crisis shows us opportunities that most of us have not seen before. Leaders, this is the best time to demonstrate our leadership.

Discover what we can do together.

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