Let’s face it – we are all facing challenges as COVID-19 changes everything about how we live and work. These unprecedented times should encourage us to work together to find new, innovative ways to maintain our productivity and our leadership skills. Many of us are currently working from home, making this a great time to re-evaluate the way we receive and direct leadership. Consequently, we wanted to spend some time on our blog this week going over how you can uphold effective leadership during the pandemic.
What is Considered Effective Leadership?
Let’s take a moment to jump back to the basics and revisit what effective leadership truly is. Leaders are people who motivate others to work with them towards a common goal. In business, this includes delegating, directing workers with tasks, encouraging colleagues, etc.
According to the plethora of available research on top leaders, highly effective leaders have the following traits in common:
- Inspiring action
- Being influential
- Optimism and has a vision for future success
- Integrity and encouraging others to have integrity
- Supporting team members through mentorship and guidance
- Confidence in themselves and their teams
- Good communication across different channels and with various types of people
- Making smart, forward-thinking decisions after analyzing available data
Leadership isn’t about what title you hold or what connections you have. An effective leader is someone who is dedicated to self-improvement and to making decisions and taking actions that align with what’s best for the company and their team members. Leaders aren’t born, they’re made through hard work and integrity. Leaders influence from a place of trustworthiness, can acknowledge mistakes and pivot into growth, and can serve others selflessly. These traits, more than anything else, are what the business world needs right now.
Flexibility Matters Now More Than Ever
Many of the world’s leading business strategists agree that flexibility is a major part of what makes a great leader. Things change at such a rapid pace that only organizations that are able to adapt quickly see success. Being able to anticipate changes is a crucial skill for top leaders. Sure, predicting a global pandemic might not be quite the same game, but the key takeaway is that flexibility can help organizations survive anything. The same idea goes for individual leadership. Here are some examples ways to use flexibility in business:
- Lead from a place of purpose
- Learn from failure
- Ask appropriate questions
- Prioritize safe spaces for your team
A leader can also be a make or break company morale and motivation. When leaders are able to adapt and be flexible, they can inspire the rest of their team to do so as well. Take Steve Jobs, for example. Even now, years after his death, he is still known for being flexible and innovative in his leadership. This has inspired an entire generation of leaders, and for good reason. There are several flexible leadership styles that can make a positive influence on morale:
- Hands-off – This sends the message that you trust your team. In turn, your team trusts you. Now that we’re facing a global pandemic, communicating trust is essential. We can only get through hard times when we work together
- Collaborative – The door is open to share ideas and encouragement. Leaders set aside their egos and encourage ideas that will elevate company culture
- Encouragement – Leaders see potential in every employee and help cultivate their strengths. Let other leaders in the group blossom
- Visionary – Looking ahead to the future, these leaders expect change and welcome it with open arms. They look ahead to big-picture goals and embrace innovation. Risk-taking is accepted and open-mindedness is at the heart of every move
Common Challenges for Leaders
If seeing the light at the end of the tunnel is challenging for you right now, know that you’re not alone. Take a look at some of the most common issues leaders are facing during mandated work-from-home orders. If you recognize any of these in your own organization, come at them with an open mind and a commitment to flexibility to overcome these hard times:
- Disrupted communication
- Not maintaining company culture
- Team members feeling isolated
- Lack of transparency
- Ineffective measurement of performance
- Company expectations are not clearly defined
- Employees feel they don’t know the truth, or what’s to come
Leading from home is certainly no easy feat. However, this is the time for leaders to recognize the problems at hand and commit to making swift, effective changes.
Overcoming the COVID-19 Challenges
Any person in any situation can improve their leadership skills. Now that the coronavirus has us working from home, it’s important that managers and executives re-evaluate their leadership styles. Being in a time of crisis does not mean we cannot work to become more effective leaders. In fact, we should all actively work to become more flexible in this current climate. According to a CNN report, getting through COVID-19 means dealing with a network of problems. To do this, you must formulate a network of solutions. Relying on old bureaucratic methods of leadership is a surefire way to lead the organization to failure. Instead, embrace innovation and flexibility.
- Clearly define expectations and align them with company values
Address the unknown with your employees and speak with confidence and authority. Your employees are expecting you to take action and guide them in a certain direction. Now is a good time to admit that you don’t have all the answers but are committed to communicating what you do know consistently. Assure your team that you will engage in regular communication with them to keep everyone updated. Stay positive and always tell the truth.
- Remember that your team is watching you
With everyone working remotely, it can be easy to forget that everyone is looking to you and how you react to problems. When you address your team, be sure to uphold good communication standards by using proper body language and effective word choices.
- Engage with empathy
Understand that your employees are going through the same thing as you. They are facing uncertainty and fears both at work and in their personal lives. Your actions should serve to uplift your team. Revisit your values—knowing what you stand for and what you would want from a leader can help inspire you to engage with your team from a place of empathy and understanding.
- Don’t allow your emotions to get the best of you
Remember, you’re allowed to feel the stress of everything, too. This is a good time to engage in self-reflection—what are you feeling? Name every emotion you experience, acknowledge them and make moves to process them. Don’t judge yourself for having your emotions, but don’t let them take over, either. When you give in to emotions, you team will notice that your behavior is out of alignment with your typical character. This will undoubtedly shake them and cause cracks in the foundation of your team.
- Remain positive and productive
Positivity and productivity go hand in hand. Showing your employees that you are making an effort to remain positive will encourage them to do the same. Just don’t come to your team with fake cheerfulness—they will sense that it’s not real. Be transparent and honest with them and they will trust that when you’re feeling positive, they should be too.
- Embrace failure
Let’s be realistic. Things will go wrong, failures will be encountered and change will happen. The best outcome of these situations is if they prompt growth afterwards. The best leaders know not to take failure personally. This is especially important now as we navigate this stage of extreme flux. Pandemic or not, not every decision you make is going to have stellar outcomes. This is normal in periods of regular business, and it is normal now, too. Focus on the growth opportunities that the bad times bring.
- Exercise your strengths
Now is a great time to remind yourself what you’re good at and all the ways it has helped your organization become successful. Don’t lose sight of these strengths. Use them now, and encourage your employees to notice and use their own strengths, too.
We hope this post was able to show how to use this time to work on your leadership skills. Remember, you’re not in this alone. Being a leader in times of crisis is an enormous challenge, but you did not get to where you are today by recoiling from change. If you want to give your leadership skills a boost, check out KnowledgeCity’s course, “Leadership and Influence.” The course is designed to help you see how you naturally influence people and how you can strengthen your influence. At a time when all eyes are on you, it is be important to be sure that your leadership and influence skills are the best they can be.