Leadership in the age of COVID-19 has been an interesting and inspiring journey.
Even though I have more than 20 years’ experience as a community leader, I found myself fumbling with where to start in leading your Chamber of Commerce during these unprecedented times. There was so much that needed done that could not be done. Our ability to interact and assist businesses as usual was essentially stripped away in April and May. We had to identify and implement new ways of providing services in the age of limited personal contact.
Throughout this pandemic, much has been said about recovery and the “new normal.” And I believe this will happen. In the meantime, what can and should we as leaders (business, community, church, school and more), do to ensure our companies and organizations survive the pandemic and are positioned for the future?
There has been a plethora of white papers on leadership in a crisis. Here are a few of the takeaways that speak to me.
Be mindful of the challenges your community and company are going through. Be compassionate. It is natural to show compassion in normal circumstances; be sure and show compassion under pressure, especially in uncertain times.
Provide clarity. Prioritize communication. Balance short term measures with long term strategic priorities.
Support each other. In moments of uncertainty, people either bind together or pull apart. This is no time for turf battles; a collaborative approach to challenges produces greater dividends.
Adjust for continuity. This may seem counter-intuitive but having the courage to adjust to a changing landscape by focusing on your vision and strategy can actually produce stability.
Think bigger and faster. How can we use this opportunity to make bold moves which can result in achieving improved performance? What do we say no to or stop doing, to create the additional space to go bigger and faster?
Be intentional with how you use your time. Early in the pandemic I spent hours reading, learning, listening to COVID-19 “news” — a rather unproductive use of time. A much better use of my time is strategizing, communicating, and leading. As a leader, changing my focus from inaction to action with an emphasis on how “to be” rather than “to do” was essential.
Leaders must continue to look ahead despite uncertainty and the limited understanding of what is to come. This brings a need to be flexible. Preparation for the future might mean making difficult choices on how your business operations look when things return to normal. Analyzing the quick decisions, made in the short term, may be reevaluated over time. Your business model might look completely different when this is all over.
With changes happening daily, making decisions in a timely fashion is critical to most of our operations. Being confident in each decision that is made helps keep employees and customers calm and collected. While missteps may be made, so will new innovations that may never have come to fruition without the pressure of this ever-changing period of time.
Our world — everyone’s world — has been turned upside down. It is important to remember that we are in this together, we are all making the tough decisions and continuing with business as best we can.
We are resilient, strong and committed. COVID-19 has not, and will not, change this.
Cindy Johnson is the president of the Grand Island Area Chamber of Commerce. Contact her at 308-382-9210 or firstname.lastname@example.org