Thinking Differently: Leading in Lockdown

We are living in an unprecedented moment. A significant time of global disruption. It feels like everything is changing, yet some things don’t change. We still need to run our organisations, manage our teams, somehow make sales just to name a few but how do we do it with this new normal? We do not have a manual for how to lead when a pandemic shuts down the world!

These last few weeks will have presented to us many new leadership challenges. The bad news is that there will be more to face in the coming days (sorry to tell you!) but there is an opportunity to grow in our leadership ability and organisational capacity. We can become better through this.

This is not the first crisis that has hit our world. This pandemic won’t last forever. However, we must navigate this season well to ensure we make the most of this difficult moment. Here are a few tips of how you can lead well during this unexpected season:

Crisis brings us clarity. This moment forces us as leaders to narrow the focus and be strategic. We have to step back and evaluate what is truly important to our organisation. Where do I need to be spending my time? What expenses need to be eliminated? What processes need to change? These next few weeks force us to do things, we should have really done before. Bring focus to what truly matters to your organisation.

Communication is also key. Every day, things are changing leaving us with questions. How long is this going to last? How does this impact my role? How can I be productive at home with a toddler constantly disrupting my zoom call?!? Many are feeling uncertain about the future. You don’t have all the answers for your staff but you should share what you do know. Communicate regularly and honestly.

We must face the reality of the situation we are in. Balancing optimism and realism in a key to leading in lockdown. This is known as the Stockdale Paradox. James Stockdale was a former vice presidential candidate and was held captive in Vietnam as a prisoner of war for over seven years.  Many of his fellow POW’s didn’t make it out. Stockdale shared how he survived repeated tortures over a long period of time: “You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end — which you can never afford to lose — with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”

You must embrace the fine line between dealing with the facts, and not letting the facts have the last word. It is a time to bring solutions for the future of your organisation.

It is good not to face the morning traffic but the office now looks different. We are learning to lead without face to face conversations. We can’t really get a “feel” of how our team is doing in the usual way. We can’t see if our staff are really working hard. We can’t bring focus by walking around the office.

This means we need to change how we lead. Meetings look different, task management changes and working collaboratively on projects shifts. We may have software in place already for this but we must maximise and commit to the different technology that is available. An email won’t cut it in this season. What you did before, won’t necessarily get you through this time. Teams need communication and clear direction more than ever. You must learn to lead virtually. Explore the different software that is vastly available on the web and do not be afraid to change.

This moment may present restriction, but what if it was inviting us into expansion. This crisis has thrown obstacles our way, but it is also giving us opportunities. There are some difficult decisions we have to make, but don’t miss what this season is making available. This is a moment of reset which can lead to healthier organisational culture and structures. What do you want your organisation to become during this time? It feels like the foundations of the world are being shaken. As leaders, we can restore the right foundations of our organisation moving forward.

Furthermore, remember that in every crisis there are always opportunities. Everyone feels like they’re shrinking but innovating could cause expansion. You might create a new service that solves a challenge. A new product that would only catch on during lockdown. Yes, you need to financially survive the next few months, but what if this time set you up for a brighter future. Don’t rule it out.