The coronavirus has challenged our basic assumptions and the way we move through our lives. It is something rarely seen in the medical community. Its incubation period may make us unknowing carriers who unintentionally inflict harm on others. It is a frightening reality with global implications.
In addition to these health concerns, the coronavirus has dared many business professionals to question their fundamental paradigms about effective leadership — not only during a crisis but also in a world that will be profoundly changed by the impacts of this global virus.
It is no wonder, therefore, that many view this pandemic as a transformative referendum on leadership.
The coronavirus has created an environment of constant, unrelenting change. Each day, new insights are gleaned and new recommendations for safety are issued. But each day also produces dire warnings of the potential financial and cultural effects of the virus.
We are urged to pull together by staying physically apart — a challenge for a species that needs contact with others. Although the global economy has made us increasingly interdependent, we are asked to conscientiously and proactively practice social distancing in order to protect ourselves and others.
Companies who previously denied remote work or offered limited telecommuting options are now being forced to change their paradigm of not only what it means for their employees to “be at work,” but also what it means to humanely lead their organizations. Some are doing this willingly, while others are responding to referendums by local governments to close all non-essential businesses in an effort to stop the spread of the virus.
In response to this constantly changing environment, organizational leaders must continuously ask:
What is the most ethical, humane way to respond to this pandemic?
What are we willing to do for our employees even if we know that these actions
could have an enormous financial impact on our businesses?
How do we continuously protect ourselves, our employees,…and our businesses?
The pressure on organizational leaders to continue to move forward despite these radical changes and fears is enormous. It exposes the heart of the very real quandary of balancing the needs of our people with the financial needs of the business.
Because lives are potentially at risk, our definitions of “corporate social responsibility” are being radically tested…in real time. Our employees are watching and judging our responses.
To effectively respond to this crisis and its aftermath requires creativity. Because technology offers the ability to practice social distancing in order to stop the spread of the virus, I have seen many tech companies offering their services to teachers and students for free. Others are offering significant discounts or freemiums in order to help organizations continue to work effectively and remotely.
As we work together to move through and out of this pandemic, we must continue to question our underlying assumptions: about ourselves, our employees, our companies, and our society.
It will not be “business as usual” for the foreseeable future and the probability of a return to the previous status quo is slim.
The medical community will continue to question each aspect of the virus — knowing that with each answer, a new question will emerge. Business leaders need to follow the same protocol as we question how we will move forward in this time of crisis.
In other words, we must question our assumptions. We must talk with (not at) our employees. We must ask how we can help ourselves, our employees, our clients, and our society. We must encourage flexibility, adaptability, resiliency, and (above all) humanity in moving through and out of this global pandemic.
Never stop questioning! I wish you health and wellness as together we address the short-term and long-term changes arising from the coronavirus.
© 2020 Dr. Geri Puleo