Resilient Leadership

11 June 2020

In the weeks that organisations have traversed the changing business landscape in a global pandemic, it has become unavoidable to take a long, hard look at what is perceived and promoted as resilient leadership.

Any crisis, such as the COVID-19 pandemic,  unmistakably exposes an organisation’s culture. Challenges that may have simmered under the surface for years have now risen to the fore. We could go as far as to predict that organisations that have focused on fostering and investing into resilient cultures are the ones more likely to survive the disruption of COVID-19. Harvard Business Review highlights people and perspective as key focus areas for building resilience among remote teams in particular.

Emotional accountability

Employees miss going to the office. Some are waiting for it all to ‘blow over’ so that they can go back to the world we all used to know – but that world no longer exists. While people practitioners and experts do their best to prepare employees on what a new normal may look like, many employees live in a sense of denial only to discover that nothing will be the same, once we get back to the office. Whether it be the stringent health protocols in place or the stand-offish or nervous behaviour of colleagues, we quickly realise that even at the office we will now primarily be ‘working remotely’.

The purpose of the office of the future has shifted from a place of work to a place of coming together. ‘Work’ and ‘place’ is now decoupled.

In the face of uncertainty, it is easy to lose perspective and focus solely on remedying the immediate challenge instead of asking what the real reason is for that behaviour. The fear of the unknown, fear of failure and loss of convenience are the three most significant barriers to change.  As businesses are expected to pivot and redefine what the ‘workplace’ actually now means, it is important to help employees understand what emotions they are accountable for managing, and where the organisation will assist or guide.

Let’s facilitate conversations to help individuals themselves arrive to the conclusion that resilience is also dependant on taking ownership of emotions and the process of reinvention.

Leadership’s responsibility in sustaining organisational resilience

It goes without saying that now is a great time for all in leadership positions to change their approach and adapt to leading employees and cultivating a digital leadership style that fosters both resilience and productive behaviour.

  1. Look after yourself before you can look after others. Now is not the time to soldier on under the banner of proving resilience. Failing to address your own uncertainty, emotions and fears may hamper your ability to guide your team and streamline its efforts towards the new normal. Leaders, taking accountability for your own emotions is a key responsibility of your leadership before you can facilitate those of your team.
  2. Communication is more important than ever. Reassure your team by communicating often and with compassion. The responsibility rests with managers to not only address questions and concerns employees may have, but to also create a compelling picture of the future (as far as we can reasonably foresee) and expectation of the ‘future selves’ employees need to buy into. Consistency and transparency in communication reduces ambiguity, which in turn creates fear and anxiety and breaks down resilience.
  3. Depart from a crises-framed collaboration style. The team is most likely now set for remote working and have mastered virtual meetings. Collaboration during this time looks different, but it is important that team members are reassured of their value and do not forfeit their autonomy. Collaborating digitally while still upholding the expected work standard will most likely require you to implement new frameworks to reassure the team of your confidence in their abilities while also monitoring the quality of work delivered.

As we continue to come to terms with the changing place of work, and workplace, perhaps it is worthwhile to remember that adapting to change breeds resilience in the long run. Be the leader that inspires a lasting legacy.