Tough times don’t last, tough people do. For a leader, difficult periods such as this once-in-a-generation pandemic can be a herculean task to navigate but it also serves as the perfect ground to cut one’s teeth and gain valuable experience that can be applied when similar situations arise.
It doesn’t matter if you are the owner of a small business or in a management position in a big corporation, any leader worth their salt is asking how to support their team members. There is a constant tassel of having to sustain both people and performance in any organisation. Your success as a leader will depend on these qualities: resilience, empathy and transparency.
Setting a role model for the people around you and affect the way they react to an unfavourable situation. This includes how you communicate, respond and make decisions. Remember the good old days when flying was still a thing, and you would probably have heard of this piece of instruction, “put on your own oxygen mask before helping others.” As selfish as that might sound, it could not be truer. Knowing where you are struggling and then seeking help is paramount because it is only then can you in turn offer assistance to the team after resolving what’s bothering you. Admitting one’s shortcomings can be scary for leaders because it could be seen as a public display of incompetence. However, you have to remember that in the long run, being humble helps to enhance your coping skills and broaden your perspective. Keep your chin up, that way you can lead with more confidence.
Following which is the ability to empathise with others. This is paramount as it enables you to elicit greater commitment and effort from those under your care. Empathy can either be cognitive or emotional. This means putting yourself in the shoes of others to try and understand what others are thinking and feeling. There are plenty of ways to go about this and with telecommuting the new norm, it is even more important that leaders are attuned to the needs of their team members. Staying in touch, learning what resources they need and empowering them are key points to take note of. Making your presence known to them is critical during this period.
This is important for luxury brands as they are the first to receive the brunt of the pandemic with plummeting sales. Priorities have now shifted away from designer goods to necessities such as food, masks and sanitisers. And in order to remain relevant to what’s happening, a number of firms including powerhouses like LVMH and L’Oréal were among the first companies to retool their production toward making hand sanitisers, which they donated to hospitals. Dolce & Gabbana and Armani made donations to help the scientific communities, and others soon followed.
During times of crisis, communication — good or bad — plays a huge role in how a group reacts and moves forward. You might have good intentions in keeping mum about what’s going on with the business but on the other hand, misleading statements can arise that can do a disservice to your work. Hence, being open, honest and transparent can mitigate potential fallouts. Rather than creating a sense of certainty, perhaps it is better to embrace uncertainty. Solutions are a work in progress because there are no best practices as no one has been through this before. Invite your teammate to join you in your quest in finding out what works best and be upfront about foreseeable failures while not losing sight of the future.
All in all, a leader needs to have a vision to work towards and continue to inspire the people around so that they preserve with you. After all, we all are in this together and it doesn’t hurt to share the burden of forging a future and when better times arrive, a remarkable team will emerge and can reach even greater heights.