The COVID-19 pandemic has left many businesses in precarious positions. Long-term business closures have left many small businesses and larger companies alike teetering on the edge of a thin rail. Some will be able to pull through and make ends meet until things get back to normal and profits are more robust, but others will lose everything they have worked to build. The key to pulling through involves knowing the difference between leadership and management.
A recent Forbes.com article by Jon Michail states:
When times are good, a captain can rest back and let their first officer cruise their vessel over tranquil water. But when a storm approaches, a captain must take the helm by the hand and steer their ship toward clearer skies.
In this scenario, the captain is the leader, and the first officer is the manager. Although the manager is adept at handling the routine operating tasks, a true leader must be prepared to handle tough situations that involve creative, critical thinking and adaptability.
How Do Managers Become Leaders?
Although many people are born with leadership qualities, experience richens the experience and imparts the knowledge and wisdom that are necessary to navigate stormy seas. When you are learning to lead through tough times, five behaviors are considered critical.
- Stay on the front lines. A true leader doesn’t cower in a secluded office and attempt to run the show from afar. Leaders are in the trenches at every level of operations and provide explicit instruction and transparency regarding their actions in dire situations.
- Place team members’ concerns above their own. To truly gain success under challenging situations, leaders must not act to achieve recognition for themselves but have the success of each member of the company as a priority.
- Complete transparency. The leader should always communicate information effectively and with confidence while being able to admit to unknown variables.
- Adaptability. One of the biggest jobs of a leader is being able to prioritize tasks, while continually re-evaluating the situation and re-prioritizing, as necessary. Adaptability is a trait that all strong leaders have shared throughout history.
- Have a forward-thinking vision. Leaders know that situations are apt to switch tracks on a dime, and they must be able to focus on the task at hand while remaining ready to change course and refocus as changes and other opportunities arise. They must be able to inspire hope, while moving forward with clear explanations of the reality of the circumstances.
When you are leading your company through this worldwide crisis, it is crucial to adhere to these principles, while learning from more experienced leaders around you. Statistics show that there will be billions of dollars in revenue in the economy moving forward and the potential to get millions of unemployed workers back to work. Like most companies, you are likely facing nearly insurmountable struggles related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Still, by doubling down on strong leadership, your operation could weather this storm and come out stronger in the end.