Building leadership in adversity
This is an unprecedented time for leaders around the world.
Both leaders on the international stage and for leaders in cornerstone sections of society; ward sisters, supermarket team leaders, delivery managers.
I was recently honoured to be able to contribute to Stand up Straight, a book on everyday leadership inspired by the lessons of the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst (RMAS).
It strikes me, that leaders need the lessons from this book, now more than ever. Leadership in times of stress is difficult. But combine this with the remoteness that every responsible Britain is now imposing on themselves and many are faced with a revolutionary task. The remoteness of working is one that the Army has long embraced and solved with one thing: Trust.
How do you simultaneously keep your team inspired, engaged and safe during this time?
Three basic tips:
1) Leadership is about positive influence. At times like this, your team may be remote and dislocated, you need to utilise influence more than ever. Coaching the best from people in an unusual environment is essential. Hard words can have their place in leadership at times, but when your staff are remote and isolated with a physical barrier, you must find a path towards the softer side of leadership; emotional intelligence, collaboration and communicating shared ownership.
2) Be a swan. In the British Army, bird related analogies for leadership are commonplace. The 'Condor moment' relates to surveying your environment before acting, the 'Eagle - eyed' emphasises good observation skills. Being swan-like relates to your role in managing stressful situations. As a leader it is important to project calm to your team to fill them with a sense of control and confidence to continue. Just like a swan is graceful and elegant above water, they are hard working and effective below the surface. Sometimes the mere act of portraying calm gives your team permission to be calm too.
3) Loyalty is (a long term investment) built through trust. Teams crave loyalty, consistency and a sense of certainty. The more loyalty that you can give your teams at this time of national crisis, the more they will reward you in the future. Just as we embrace customer service to retain good customers, we must also prioritise staff loyalty. The furlough scheme has given job protection at 80% of wages, a step which safeguarded many businesses and staff wages, as well as jobs. Before taking drastic action, evaluate how you can demonstrate loyalty to your team and build trust; certainty around jobs, wages and roles goes a long way to help this. But remember: NEVER promise what you can not deliver.
Leadership is a personal journey and everyone has their own style. Take this time to reflect on the aspects of your leadership that you want to improve and start the gradual change that will pay dividends in the long run.