According to John A Quelch from the Harvard Business School, there are seven leadership principles which can help organisations weather the COVID-19 epidemic sweeping the globe. These, he says, will not only stand companies in good stead now, but also thereafter.
Here are his seven Cs for Coronavirus survival:
Your employees, customers, suppliers and associates will be looking to you as a leader to project a sense of calm through this difficult, uncertain situation. It’s crucial to avoid panicking or wild speculation. Work with the facts.
While you need to stay calm, you also have to project confidence that you’ll be able to see this through successfully, with a minimum amount of damage to the company. This message has to go out not only to your staff and customers, but to all the stakeholders relying on your leadership to get them through the difficult days and months ahead.
It’s crucial to communicate consistently and honestly to avoid rumours developing that muddy the waters or plunge people into panic. To do so, you need a communication strategy. You have to have a sense of order in which to announce decisions and priorities, but also to communicate rapidly to the entire body of those involved – not delay communication over hours, days or, even worse, weeks. Silence is absolutely the worst option, as that’s when the rumour mill starts up.
You don’t have all the answers – nobody else does either, in this unprecedented global crisis. This is the time for you to call on the resources and capabilities of all your employees and team members and bring them together in taskforces and sub-taskforces, in which everyone has a role to play so that they feel they’re contributing to overcoming the uncertainty. Engaging employees in this way will also eliminate speculating and instil confidence in your teams. They, in turn, will project that onto those they’re managing.
All of us live in communities, whether these are factories, universities, schools or businesses. We’re leading by example, not just within our organisations, but within those broader communities. And since we’re up against a highly infectious virus, it’s extremely important that we set an example, modelling behaviours that are community-friendly and supportive.
This is extremely important at this time. Many people in our organisations who’re depending upon us aren’t very resilient and they need compassion and empathy to express their concerns (which is really all they need – the feeling that their fear is heard and registered). Think, for example, of someone in your organisation who has elderly parents in poor health, who’re particularly vulnerable to infection. If they want time off to see to their family members, consider giving it to them. Compassion is a cornerstone of good leadership.
Cash is king at a time of crisis and everything needs to be done to look both the short- and long-term financial health of the organisation. Whatever you can do to conserve cash will be critical, because that’s what will determine whether your employees will be paid at the end of this month and the coming ones.
Additional reporting: NEASA