Lindsay Harle-KadatzIs COVID-19 a leader’s greatest challenge to date?

While there is no question that business is not “as usual” during this crisis, how is this different from any other challenge you’ve faced in the past?

One of my colleagues, a leader of a team of 10, is struggling to find answers to the pandemic for her team members. They are looking to her to confidently lead them through this crisis, but she simply has no idea what to tell them. How, she wondered, can she give her team a united vision forward when the plans for the business have come to a sudden halt?

Yes, there are obvious differences dealing with a global pandemic than other “normal” crises, but the obstacles – not knowing the answer, wondering what and even how much to communicate, doubting your abilities to lead – are no different than those you’ve overcome in the past.

My colleague’s worries brought to mind leaders I’ve previously worked with. I passed on their advice for meeting adversity: Tell your team you are struggling as much as they are, but that together you’ll figure it out.

This honesty demonstrates an ability to be vulnerable in the moment, to lead by example, and to embrace collaboration and team empowerment.

My colleague’s team has now come together to create resources and webinars to support their clients and industry. Whether or not this results in revenue in the short term, who’s to say? However, it has resulted in human connection during a time when it’s most needed and this will be remembered.

There are three reasons why honesty works.

First, it acknowledges that you don’t have all of the answers. It lets your team know that you are open and willing to engage in conversation. In other words, you are not shutting down but facing all challenges head-on.

Second, you are showing your trust in them. In turn, they’ll trust you. This is crucial to keep some semblance of calm during the storm. No one foresaw COVID-19 coming or the resultant devastation to the economy. By letting them know you didn’t and are willing to be open about your own questions, you’re building a culture where everyone’s ideas are now welcome in order to pivot to future success.

Third, by letting them know the current state of the business, you are allowing them to engage in finding a solution by tapping into their unique talents. Great leaders never have all the answers. Rather, great leaders surround themselves with the right people to find the answers through innovation.

The future has always included uncertainty. But those leaders who value authentic human leadership, teamwork, collaboration, psychological safety, and unite people in a common cause will soon discover strengths in both their leadership skills and their organization they never knew existed.

Q: What leadership lessons have surprised you during your company’s response to COVID-19?

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