The Point: Grade yourself on your COVID-19 Leadership – Are you a success or a failure? You work your entire career to build your leadership brand. Day after day, week after week, and year after year you put forth a valiant effort (or, what we’d like call your “Blood, Sweat, and Spears!”) However, it only takes a moment to wipe out your leadership brand. And with the pandemic gripping the economy, the spotlight shines brightly on your leadership brand. So ask yourself… Are you a success or failure so far? In this post, we’ll explore COVID-19 Leadership so you can determine if you are a success or failure as well as provide three action areas… Enjoy!
COVID-19 Leadership – Are You a Success or Failure?
As we prepare to turn the corner into 2021, I would ask are you a success or failure during these COVID-19 Leadership times? The Greek Philosopher Socrates is quoted as saying “Life contains but two tragedies. One is not to get your heart’s desire; the other is to get it.” 2020 was supposed to be a difficult year for leaders at all levels, as forecasters predicted an economic slowdown a year ago in 2019. Well throw on top of that economic financial recession the suffering and death resulting from the pandemic. COVID-19 has been a time where leaders have potentially experienced both of Socrates tragedies… Simultaneously!
If your heart’s desire as a leader is to be the best leader possible, the actions you have taken and are taking in response to this most disruptive leadership challenge will shape your leadership legacy. You may have achieved success in previous years, making what now seems like the “right” call (or decision) after “right” call. When times are good, it’s easy to get it “right” as a leader. However, now that we’re in a medically induced recession, the “wrong” call or decision is all too common.
The Reason It’s Lonely at the Top – Decisions
Leaders who consider themselves as employee-focused and friendly found themselves in the unenviable position earlier this year of making “tough” decisions. But some leaders chose to make these “tough” decisions actually an “easy” decisions or easy way out of bad business decisions. For example, after considerable review of their organization’s financial performance, many gathered their team members on virtual conferences not to announce a way forward but to share their decision to furlough (i.e., fire, layoff, dismiss) otherwise loyal associates with little to no sensitivity. Worse yet, some other leaders elected to adopt the strategy of “no action” and did nothing (Yes, doing nothing is a choice and therefore a decision). It was only a small minority of leaders who elected to pursue the aforementioned way out or forward (Truly the “tough” decision!)
As the pandemic gripped the globe, I was asked to act as an outside leadership and change consultant on several C-suite level COVID-19 taskforces for our clients. In this role, I had a front-row seat on vastly different crisis leadership approaches. Those differences prompted me to ask the C-suite leaders I worked with what they were learning as a leader from the pandemic. Not only were these C-suite leaders eager to discuss their strategies and insights, including their uncertainties and fears, but they also wanted to hear what other leaders were doing (Perspective on not only successes, but failures as well). These discussions seemed positive, productive and progressive, allowing the C-suite leaders to reinforce certain behaviors moving forward as well as discard others. With doubt, uncertainty, and a lack of clarity we both found value in taking the time to reflect and strategize for a better tomorrow today.
The Power of Zoom
These C-suite leader conversations as measured through Zoom-metrics have consisted of 2,000+ Zoom meetings and 200+ Zoom webinars being conducted on a variety of topics (Leadership, Change, Strategy, Accountability, Delegation, Sales + Business Development, Marketing, Human Resources, Operations, and Finance). C-suite leader attendees were from a variety of industries (Automotive, Banking/Finance/Insurance, Biotechnology + Pharmaceutical, Government – Federal and State, Retail, and Technology – Hardware and Software) representing for-profit and nonprofit organizations, and were geographically dispersed across North America, South America, Europe and the Middle East.
It’s important to note a finding that presents itself in these difficult leadership times, that being leaders – especially high performing ones – are extremely harsh critics of their own performance. While most organizational stakeholders (representing company peers and subordinates) would gage the C-suite leader’s performance as Above Average on a five-point Likert scale (Excellent, Above Average, Average, Below Average, and Very Poor), most C-suite leaders ranked themselves as Below Average (with the harshest of critics ranking themselves Very Poor). That’s right, these seemingly superior C-suite leaders who during previous times reflected little/no self-esteem or self-image issues, now during COVID-19 were convinced that they were not leading up to their fullest potential (perhaps the key is developing “self-compassion” skills as Margaret Wehrenberg Psy.D. shares in her Psychology Today article titled, “What to Do When You Are Your Own Worst Critic”).
COVID-19 Leadership: Are You a Success or Failure? 3 Action Areas
So, during this COVID-19 Leadership moment, do you consider yourself a success or failure? The aforementioned conversations focused on leaders, regardless of their success or failure orientation, excelling in three (3) broad action areas. COVID-19 leaders want to be known for leading with:
- Courage (Having created environments with effective Strategies, Action Plans, Goals, Communication, Organization Alignment, Operational Excellence, and Organizational Proficiency)
- Poise (Having created environments with Contingency Planning, Organizational and Team Member Prioritization Rankings, Science versus Art, and Championing Ethical Leadership), and/or
- Dignity (Having created environments present with Calm, Morality, Compassion, and as odd as it sounds Love)
I would ask you the same questions I asked these C-suite leaders in closing:
- What do you want people to say about your leadership during the pandemic?
- How sure are you that you will be perceived that way?
- Most importantly, what can you do today to ensure your desired legacy is realized now and into the future?
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