Some basic leadership concepts are rock solid, others are like rubber, adapting to the form and the conditions.
Leadership in normal times can be challenging. Leadership under stress or prolonged crisis can cause teams to break apart. Events of this year are testing leadership strategies and strengths of good leaders. Leadership under pressure require flexibility and some degree of risk. If you need team members to adapt, you need to show them how it works. You don’t abandon the leadership playbook, but you make room to improvise and call an audible when needed. Your adapt your leadership focus.
Here are the things that are good always:
Have a vision and communicate it. The responsibility of a leader is to lead others, and that requires having a vision. You have to lead them somewhere, right? Know where your team is going and communicate it. Information is motivating, describe the path and what success looks like.
Take care of your people. Always. Show them you have their back. Make their jobs easier. Clear roadblocks when you need to and provide them the resources needed. While you are at it, tell them they are appreciated.
Be visible, but do not micromanage. Sometimes there is a fine line between being engaged and smothering your people. If you have hired right, and trained correctly, why can’t you trust your people to do the job you hired them to do? Micromanagers are motivation killers. If your staff need training, provide it, then let them loose to do their jobs.
Give praise and credit outwardly; counsel privately. Employees want to know their work and efforts matter. Feedback matters. You owe it to your folks to provide feedback. When their efforts are significant or they have mastered something new, recognize the efforts, but make it meaningful. Not every effort is praiseworthy, but you can measure the feedback to be appropriate to the action. Many leaders refrain from feedback intended to correct behavior or performance, but you owe it to your employees. You care about their performance and their success, honest feedback is essential.
Be humble, own your mistakes. Show your team that you aren’t full of yourself. Be able to laugh at yourself. When you make a mistake, acknowledge it, and move on. Show your self-confidence, but refrain from being arrogant.
Lead by example, but also lead from behind. Model the behavior and values of your organization. Roll up your sleeves when needed. Otherwise, leading from behind lets your team take the lead. If you have provided a vision, coached them and empowered them, you don’t really need to take the point; you’ll know when you do.
Be prepared to throw away the plan. Plans do not always work as practiced during stressful situations. Be adaptive and include your folks in developing a different or revised path.
Agility. Learn on the fly and instill confidence in your team as you do it. After the plan changes, you not only need to bring your team along, they also need to be flexible and test their wings to learn and achieve.
Keep the path clear. Good leadership is controlling the bureaucratic tendencies of an organization. New policies, new forms, new requirements, different reporting structure – any of these things can cause more stress and detour people from their mission. Clear the path, don’t complicate it.
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate. Always important. More so in a crisis. Use non-traditional methods to keep your people updated. Communication reinforces confidence and staying motivated. Your people want to know – more. not less.
Loosen the rules. Make your folks comfortable. Relaxing what rules you can, allows employees to feel that you care about them and might make their work easier to do. Rules serve a purpose but the situations change. Rules can return if they make sense. These are times to re-think some of your rules.
Monitor and boost morale. Under crisis, team members react differently, some thrive while others need more help. Your job is to know what is happening and fortify their ability to succeed.
Leadership is not rocket science, it is human science.