In a remarkably short time, the COVID-19 virus has taken us into uncharted territory. In that crazy universe nothing is the same, there are no familiar benchmarks, and we’ve gone completely off the map. The question for leaders is, how can we lead effectively when we’ve never been there before? Here’s four key principles that you should know:
1. Right now, your credibility matters more than ever. During a crisis, your job title, the organizational chart, or the size of your office mean very little. People could care less about the outward trappings of your role. All they want to know is what you’re doing to lead us out of this mess. Your expertise, your confidence, and your ability to keep a cool head matter far more than where you are on the organization’s food chain. No matter where you are on the team, this could be your moment to step up.
2. Be willing to ditch your assumptions and admit you were wrong. Everything we know has changed. This is the moment to experiment, try new things, and if they fail, own it, and move on. Easily embarrassed leaders don’t get very far in a crisis.
3. Start listening. In a crisis, the organizational chart matters less than the talent and ideas of your team. I’ve been on film shoots where the smartest people on the set couldn’t come up with the big idea for making the scene work. Then, out of nowhere, the lowest person on the crew – an “assistant’s assistant” – came up with the idea that saved the scene. You never know where your next great idea will come from, and that next idea could be your roadmap out of this mess. So start listening.
4. Learn to lead and inspire creative people. In uncharted territory, when the data is incomplete, or the analytics don’t make sense, creativity is often the way out. In these moments, leaders who know how to motivate and inspire a creative team will be the leaders who succeed.
Leaders are often born in moments like this, so this is not the time to step back or hunker down. Think about these four principles, and you could emerge from this moment a new and different leader.