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The COVID-19 Impact on Leadership: How have business leaders responded to new market challenges?

The coronavirus has brought with it a great crisis, confusion, and difficult challenges to all organizations. It is apparent that 2020 is going to be especially shaky for everyone — organizations, employees, and consumers alike.

Image by Willfried Wende/Pixabay

The COVID-19 has affected us in many ways, from the shocking loss of thousands of lives around the world to an economic crash that threatens each one of us. We are facing a new reality, especially businesses that have been disrupted to such an extent that it will take a long time for them to recover. The effect of Covid-19 on the body may be temporary, but the changes brought about by this pandemic may have altered our lives permanently. Facing such a scenario, how should business leaders respond to the challenges, and what strategy should they adopt to prepare for the ‘new normal’?

Both CEOs and staff alike need to achieve organizational clarity; therefore, they must work together, plan for various scenarios, reformulate appropriate strategies, and maintain their customer base to ensure inflow revenue.

CEOs have now more time than ever to achieve some inner clarity as regards their business goals, especially during a time of crisis and major change. Business leaders deal with the same issues and do their best to keep the company afloat, support their team, giving them a feeling of being involved. Even though most of us are wandering through a disastrous business landscape, CEOs and Corporate Heads have started to look forward -to what is called- a post-COVID-19 world.

Some companies are experiencing moderate impact after having promoted digitization in recent years and were able to transition to remote work using tools like Slack and Zoom. However, some sectors like the hospitality, and airline sectors, were severely impacted by the imposition of restriction on physical movement. In addition, companies in less technologically advanced sectors have been crushed. In this context, some large corporations are taking over smaller ones and many small companies look to merge with large ones.

In such cases, CEOs must be prepared to counter challenges and threats facing their company, and act in real-time to maintain organizational confidence consistently through frequent communication and cooperation with their employees.

For example, during the ongoing pandemic lockdown, in an attempt to forecast the nature of future goals, the CEO of a company called his team via an online communication mode to discuss the redesigning of relevant business strategies once the lockdown would be lifted. Under such constraint, the act of setting up a meeting with his team to discuss these strategies, elevate his leadership profile in the organization.

He brainstorms together with them, creating a sense of mutual responsibility, which gives them confidence precisely in a time of change.

The CEO’S handling of the situation brings to mind the expression “We’re all in the same boat, so, let’s row together.”

What is the main role of company CEOs, especially in these turbulent times?

The CEO, as the head of an organization, must initiate focus meetings with external crisis consultants together with his management teams, to achieve clarity, and focus on problem-solving and the attainment of organizational goals.

They must highlight specific difficulties, look at the situation together from different angles, carry out mutual brainstorming, and raise the best possible proposals and solutions that will meet the needs of everyone.

Teamwork, especially at this time, is mandatory to put things in order, calm unsettled spirits and emotions, and take swift and appropriate action.

Moreover, teamwork helps find practical solutions to the problem of reconnecting with the business and bringing customer traffic back to the company.

Companies that invested in digitization to reach customers were able to develop and communicate to meet the new demands and challenges presented by the global pandemic. New innovations, like AI technology, have helped companies such as Tryg, GM Financial, and Farmers Insurance, etc. These have turned to chatbots to optimally maintain their customer base during the lockdown.

They have also used text analytics software to learn, listen, and interact with their customers who will adapt to this new way of doing business once the business re-opens in the post-pandemic world.

The companies mentioned above are some that have adopted advanced technical digitization well before the global pandemic outbreak, and thus could more easily respond to the needs and requirements of customers during the Covid-19 eruption.

At GM Financial, employees are trained on LivePerson, and once the lockdown order came down, started working from home.

Their AI Chatbot ‘Nanci’ runs 24*7 and handles more than 50% of all requests without the need for human intervention. The Farmers Insurance Company has followed through in a similar manner. The company invested in digital customer outreach software prior to the pandemic; this proved of tremendous support when the pandemic broke. There are many other examples of companies that adopted technical digitization much before the pandemic outbreak. Their decision ultimately proved beneficial to their company and save it during this global crisis.

Image: Rudy and Peter Skitterians/Pixabay

The consequence of this global pandemic has taught CEOs to reassess their business strategies and scale them to smaller pulses in short intervals while planning actions in preparation for such scenarios.

Undoubtedly, recovering from this crisis is of incalculable worth but rebound from this global consequential event is not enough.

CEOs also realized that they have to learn new skills and accelerate a new kind of technological leadership that will enable the organization they lead to survive. Moreover, the positive impact of such a crisis might even help to discover new possibilities and opportunities, as well as innovative ideas that will help the organization to grow beyond its existing boundaries.

Since the beginning of 2020, most CEOs have already updated their business plans with greater clarity, conforming to the dynamic scenarios taking place in the new global market. And that move was not a smooth transition for them at all.

They adjust their new objectives by incorporating their organization’s core values while conveying cautious optimism to their staff and customer base, delivering a message that the situation is temporary and the hope that it will soon improve.

Exceptional leadership is best expressed by solving problems in real-time. Leaders must be courageous in the way they lead those around them, like lions leading the pack, taking all possible steps necessary to better adapt to new economic dictates.Making their decisions about reorganizing the business along with accelerating a new kind of technological leadership will be tested over time when the storm subsides, and then comes the big question,

‘Were their actions found to be positive during COVID19?’

Well, time will tell!


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