Learning from the pandemic 2
In our previous discussion we looked at how the pandemic highlights the importance of messaging for leaders and how employees at all levels need to have a clear impression and understanding of what’s happening, how it could affect them , what the future and therefore success could look like and how it is going to be achieved. The pandemic , in all its attendant uncertainties has shown that where these threads of communication are missing or ill defined , great confusion and uncertainty can arise.
We touched on the concept of fairness which I want to develop further here. Fairness is a very subjective issue and one man’s fairness can be another man’s unfairness. Empathetic leaders understand this and spend a great deal of time with their colleagues understanding their issues, addressing them in one way or another but having to make a decision or a series of decisions that will not please everyone. “You have to crack eggs to make an omelette” is a truism but all decision making is not about cracking eggs. It can be about listening and understanding and guiding- more long term attributes for sure but decisions have to be made. The pandemic has shown better leaders realizing issues that can be addressed quickly and dealing with them and explaining why they have made them. Apologising for the decision can be seen as a weakness but admitting reluctance but having listened to all the arguments and concerns before the decision is made is a far more meaningful and understood explanation.
The pandemic has brought into sharp relief those countries where efficient authoritarianism can in effect force people to act in a certain way has brought about quick results. These countries , mostly in Asia work well there but in countries used to more debate and discussion such quick uncomplaining action is difficult if not impossible to achieve. The idea that leaders of organisations should be more autocratic and adopt a “tell and do” attitude runs counter to most thinking and in a pluralistic society difficult to sustain.
This presents a challenge for leaders trying to marry fairness with clear authority but it need not be. Leaders need to be clear about what they want and what success looks like. In order to get buy in they must use all the tools available to them , including listening, explaining , modifying where necessary and reviewing but eventually having to make the big decisions. Its not easy but no one should pretend that it is.