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Like everyone else, business leaders were caught unawares by the pandemic. And who can blame them? No management institute or leadership workshop had prepared them for this scenario. Even the world’s biggest experts and visionaries hadn’t faced anything like this before. After all, the last time a disease wreaked havoc to this extent was a century ago (the Spanish Influenza).

Despite this, leaders have recovered fast enough from the shock to not only guide their companies through this tumultuous time but also to achieve growth. The resilient nature of humans is probably the biggest takeaway from all of this, and it shows that we can survive almost anything. Having said that, the changes wrought by COVID-19 – especially in terms of well-being and work culture – are here to stay. Let’s take a look at some invaluable leadership lessons from the pandemic:

Change is good – so prepare in advance

Change is inevitable, and the sooner we embrace this fact, the better. Leaders need to understand that they are part of a system that is continuously evolving and start processes that can withstand these evolutionary changes in technology and the workforce. Perpetual learning and adapting to the environment will keep you ahead of the curve. Find ways to keep your organisation relevant and thriving in the future, rather than act after things have taken their course.

Trust and growth are linked

Companies spend a lot of time and money on team exercises (especially in trust-building). This became even more important in the remote work context. Companies and managers had no option but to trust their colleagues to understand the importance of efficiency and deadlines. And, on the whole, employees have acquitted themselves splendidly!

Whether employees work in-office or remotely, leaders must demonstrate that they trust people to get the work done. Organisations that have done so have reaped the benefits.

Empathise with your team members

WFH is not everyone’s cup of tea. Some people are juggling multiple responsibilities, work/life balance has gone for a toss, and that is taking its toll. Leaders have to come in at this hour of crisis and show their employees that they care about them and their physical and mental health.

A study by Blind, an anonymous professional network, tried to ascertain the impact of social distancing on people’s well-being in terms of loneliness, anxiety and productivity levels. Of the 10,107 participants, 52.9% of users answered affirmatively to increased loneliness during work from home while 56.4% of users reported experiencing increased feelings of anxiety.

Talk to your team, understand their concerns and see if you can help in any way possible. People are your biggest resource, so nurture them, keep them motivated and focused on the goal.

Communication and delegation

Leaders usually have a lot on their plates. But good leaders do not let day-to-day crises impact their communication or connection with their team. No matter how busy you get, it is critical to check in with your team and keep them in the loop. You can delegate certain tasks that will help you manage the crisis more effectively. Effective communication with your team and the stakeholders keeps the organisation running like a well-oiled machine.

Remain calm

Your stress or anxiety are bound to rub off on your team. You must not transfer your stress or frustration during work interactions. Just like you try to be empathetic with your team, focus some of that empathy inwards and find a way to release the built-up tension. Take the help of a professional, if need be. You can’t afford to panic when everyone’s looking up to you for guidance.

Consult and cooperate

As Jim George said: No man is an island. In times of crisis, you might not have all the answers. Reach out to your team, contemporaries and seniors, you might chance upon a creative solution. Co-operating with your team and sharing responsibility will take some pressure off of you. This helps you take a more holistic approach towards managing the company and helps it grow.

Perseverance and confidence

Being at the head of a company means that you embody the values a company stands for. And a crisis is the right time to live values like perseverance and confidence. COVID-19 was an unprecedented crisis, but leaders like Mr Ratan Tata showed us how to navigate this crisis while making sure no one loses their jobs. As we said earlier, people are looking up to you and will get inspired by your qualities and attitude.

Innovation and flexibility

The pandemic has forced companies around the world to innovate and change the way they do business. The key is to encourage innovation at all levels, and not get caught up in process implementation. Be flexible and embrace the uncertainty. The modern business environment calls for leaders who are goal-oriented and can steer the company through an unpredictable environment. These innovative and flexible practices don’t just apply to business solutions; they should be directed towards employee well-being as well.

Celebrate the small wins

The pandemic has reminded us that we can’t take anything for granted. Remember that for a while, even minor things like grabbing a coffee from your favourite coffee shop became impossible. Appreciate even the small accomplishments of your team and celebrate with them to keep them motivated. While this is important in times of crisis, it should become a practice in the future as well.

COVID-19 brought the world to a standstill, but the crisis has been an opportunity for organisations to learn and implement changes that were pending for a while. The aftershocks will be felt in times to come, but leaders should focus on the silver lining – the positive effects on work culture and process adjustments that can already be seen across the board.