Aug 24 2020| Leadership
by Phil Eyre Founder
I have the privilege of spending time with leaders across a wide cross section of Guernsey’s community, in business, government and the third sector. Over the last few months, we have witnessed some excellent examples of great leadership in a crisis (as well as some not so impressive actions).
There are many characteristics of great leadership, but four have stood out over recent months: presence, empathy, forward thinking and humility.
Great leaders are present, not absent, during a crisis, and the need for authentic communication cannot be understated. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to communicate authentically from absence, from behind a screen or with pre-prepared written press releases, or by delegating to a junior colleague.
Whilst there are many examples of excellent leadership presence, the stand-out example is the Civil Contingencies Authority. They have been visibly present throughout: clear in their communication, open, honest and accessible.
Effective leaders care about their people. They take the time to understand what matters the most to them, listening to their needs and acting accordingly.
For example, the head of a 100+ people business met virtually with every employee at least once every six weeks; for his immediate team he checked in with them weekly. This took time and effort at a point when time and energy were precious commodities. Yet he recognises that it is the people who make the company what it is.
Good managers will handle an immediate problem with agility; good leaders know when to step back from management and take a longer view. This is exceptionally difficult in a crisis, but taking time out to consider the bigger picture is usually time well spent.
For example, the executive of a business with a global reach accelerated the reorganisation and repositioning of their business. As virtual meetings became the norm, they improved the quality of their strategic discussions and decision making. Tough decisions were made quickly, the leadership has been restructured and they’re winning more work than ever and recruiting as a result. They’re on track to exceed their annual revenue objective in the coming weeks, four months ahead of target.
Healthy, effective leaders have a strong serve-to-lead attitude. They put the needs of others - especially their customers and colleagues - above their own.
We observed this with one of our professional services clients. In the initial stages of the pandemic, like many business leaders, they anticipated a drop off in work and revenues. Rather than reduce their staff numbers, the senior team all took a meaningful pay cut as a way to keep everyone employed. This paid off handsomely as, by June, the business was winning new work and they are now recruiting and expanding their team. The ability to respond quickly to new work, with an experienced and committed team, has put them ahead of their peers, especially those who chose to quickly cut their employees and are now struggling to re-recruit.
What have you experienced from your leaders this year? Hopefully you’ll recognise some, if not all, of these qualities. If not, it might be time for a change.