Why sustainable leadership has never been more important


hand with dominoes sustainable leadership resized m | OnTalent

Regardless of how hard we try, it is difficult to escape the reality that uncertainty surrounds us all. Even if we chose to shut off our social media and 24/7 news feeds for days, we’d still be faced with signs that we’re surrounded by doubt. Just walk into your local supermarket — you’re likely to see rows of empty shelves where there was once an abundance of toilet paper and staples such as rice and pasta.

While Australia’s toilet paper shortage is somewhat amusing, there are a number of other possibilities facing us as a country and the world that won’t result in too many laughs. Economic triggers, as well as social and medical concerns, are front and centre. In other words, the domino effect of the COVID-19 outbreak is a lot more significant than toilet paper wars.

  • Does your business rely on imports and/or exports?
  • Do staff members usually travel both interstate and overseas?
  • Are you all co-located?

These are the kind of questions all leaders are now facing as person-to-person interaction becomes more problematic by the day. As the situation continues to change and evolve, most travel and people contact is on-hold and at the very least, people are thinking twice. People are questioning whether major events such as the Tokyo 2020 Olympics should be cancelled while a long line of events have already been cancelled (the Australian Grand Prix for example). Prime Minister Scott Morrison continues providing updates each day with Australia’s COVID-19 tally now standing at over 1,000 cases.

How long is this situation likely to last?

That’s the million dollar question everyone is asking. It goes without saying that all businesses and leaders need to be considering their plan to get through this period (ideally, a plan should already be in place by now). How much reserve is available to tap into? Both in terms of finances/the bank, as well as emotionally.

As I type this, in this moment, sustainable leadership looks like leading and managing people remotely. Given the Government’s latest travel advice, no staff member should be sent overseas and interstate travel should be reserved for business-critical activity with a lot of organisations’ cancelling site visits and keeping human contact to a minimal. With technology these days, be willing to invest in workarounds like Zoom and Skype. Meetings don’t have to grind to a halt, they’ll just need to take place online.

If your team can work from home, they should be. Any team member displaying COVID-19 like symptoms, should be getting testing as opposed to being at work. If you don’t have the luxury of people having the ability to work from home, ensure you’re implementing any health and safety measures required. Productivity levels are likely to take a hit at this time, be prepared and aware of the impact this will have on your clients who rely on your products/services and also your people themselves.

True leaders shine during challenging times. This is when clear heads and sustainable leadership is needed most. Adequate organisational planning, including scenario planning, will be paramount. Many businesses will simply be aiming to keep their heads above water — you should be prioritising the strategies that allow you to do so. In recent days, it’s become clearer that this situation won’t just be a blip on the radar. It’s likely we all may need to dig deep as this might be a long and wild ride. What happens bigger picture wise is largely out of our hands — diligent planning is very much within your control as a leader.

Here are some simple tips to help guide your organisation’s planning efforts:

  • Ensure you’re on the front foot and make decisions accordingly and quickly. Being proactive is a big plus during difficult circumstances.
  • When it comes to decision-making, be guided by fact-based information such as the Australian Government’s Department of Health Coronavirus (COVID-19) Health Alert and predictions that global health authorities are making. Trust their expertise.
  • Communication is vital. Communication within your organisation and team, communication with your clients, communication all-round. Update people accordingly and take the guesswork (and anxiety) out of the equation.

One thing is certain: we must continue to go about our business as best we can from here.

If you need help with planning within your organisation, you can read more about leading effectively during uncertain times here. Alternatively, you can reach out to OnTalent so that we can confidentially discuss your unique needs.

Deborah Wilson is a Thought Leader and a Career Strategist. She takes a personalised approach to strategic career coaching and career transitions, mentoring and leadership development. Deborah provides expert guidance for individuals whilst supporting organisations through change and connecting people and purpose. Call Deborah on +61 403 779 746. www.ontalent.com.au

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