Leadership in times of Corona

Leadership in times of Corona

A couple of weeks ago we were happily following our daily routines. We grabbed our coffee mugs, slowly walked over to our teams and chatted with them. 

If there was a problem, people approached us (or we approached them), we hopped into a meeting room and solved the issue. We knew what our teams were doing. For lunch, we grabbed our colleagues and our biggest problem was if we wanted to go for Asian or Italian food. These times are over. Suddenly, from one day to the next, we are confined to the walls of our home office spaces. Our spouses and kids are screaming for our attention, our wireless connection is stuttering, and our apps are quitting on us due to heavy use. On top of that, we fear for our loved ones and don’t know how severely the economic aftermath will hit us. In this scenario, our bosses still expect us to lead our teams and deliver exceptional results. That’s a challenge.

The VUCA-world
I fully understand you, because I am in exactly the same situation. I also fear for my loved ones and my economic existence. However, for me as an Agile Leader, the general perception of the world is that it is volatile and uncertain. Also, I believe “black swan” events [1] (events nobody believes to be possible until they happen) to be the norm rather than the exception. We just don’t know what they will be and when they will happen. What we all experience at the moment is Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity. Have you already heard of those four words? Take the initial letters and you get VUCA. VUCA is an acronym coined by the U.S. Army War College around 1987

From an Agile point of view, we have been living in a VUCA-world for quite some time already. It’s just that now, in the middle of a black swan event, everybody realizes it.

The ones – people and businesses - who learn to deal with it will thrive. The ones who don’t will plummet and go out of the market. This means, you as a leader are needed now. The skills to deal with uncertainty are useful far beyond the Corona crisis.

Stay Calm
Some Leaders are panicking. Don’t. Stay calm. Our families and teams are looking up to us. They will follow our example. If we can keep a cool head, they have a fair chance to mimic this. In times like these, people need stability. When everything else is volatile, we as their leaders have to be the pillar of strength and stability for them. This can be achieved through us acting as role models, and also through routines, processes and clear goals. If we act mindless, our teams might fall apart or suffer mental stress beyond necessity.

In order to keep mental stress from them, we need to be relaxed ourselves. Use meditation techniques and don’t forget to exercise, that’s helpful for serenity. Let’s also keep in mind that, while we don’t know what will happen tomorrow, we do know what we can do today.

Some leaders, especially those who are panicking, are either not deciding anything at all, or going into a decision-frenzy that calls for a new direction twice a day. Neither is helpful, even though understandable. We can spot this in the animal world: When threatened, some animals feign death. They just fall over and won’t move an inch, no matter how close the predator comes. Others run as fast as they can, darting sideways or zigzagging in order to get away. Others turn around and fight. Human beings act in similar ways, when in fear. I want us to belong to the last group. I want us to fight, instead of freezing or fleeing.


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