Over the last year we have talked at length about ‘weathering the storm’ and the importance of remaining resilient in the face of adversity. While many have ventured that we are “all in the same boat”, this couldn’t be further from the truth and how successfully we as businesses fare when times are tough will vary greatly.
For the best chance at making it through difficult times and being in a good position when a degree of normality has been restored, strong leadership is needed to guide the way, make tough decisions and keep a clear head to reach the end goal.
In this article, Oxford Innovation Coach and Leadership Specialist Sarah Pryce takes a look at what it takes to be the strong leader that a business needs and why it is more important than ever in times of upheaval.
What defines a strong leader?
In a business sense it is easy to think of a leader as a founder, CEO or MD, when really anyone who leads a team is by definition a leader, but there is a difference between someone who is in charge of others’ duties and a strong leader.
A leader is someone with courage and vision; emotional intelligence and great communication skills.
Leadership can be lonely and so it’s a fine balance between the determination and self-belief needed to carry on when the going gets tough, coupled with the emotional intelligence to take people with you and inspire them to deliver.
The benefits of strong leadership to a business
Strong leadership creates clarity, which is critically important, especially in a turbulent climate. It is that leadership that gives people someone to look to for guidance and reassurance not only that there is a roadmap to return to a level of normalcy, but that it is being carried out by a leader they trust.
Strong leaders have the emotional intelligence to show vulnerability and humility, to build relationships, to listen and engage – these are the sort of skills that inspire others to follow.
New difficulties presented to leaders by Coronavirus
In order to survive, agility has been the key for many; not just being agile in terms of what products are offered and how, but also being quick to identify what is needed from a leader and when.
Leaders will have had to change the way in which they make decisions and their attitude to risk. They will have become experts in having courageous conversations and in creating confidence in an environment that is constantly shifting.
Some businesses that may have enjoyed a strong sense of loyalty from their workers in the past may now be faced with a workforce worried about the security of their jobs. In that situation the role of a leader may shift in part to one of reassurance and more frequent communication as the situation unfolds.
The changing responsibilities of leaders as restrictions lift
There is something powerful about creating time to pause long enough to reflect, listen and recognise what the business has been through in the last year. Surviving, pivoting, thriving – it’s important to understand how the last year has been for your team, and to thank them for the part they have played.
Leaders will want to consider what they have learned in the last year, what needs to change and equally, what new opportunities may be on the horizon.