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Leading your team through the COVID-19 Pandemic and others to come

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South Africa

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COVID-19 is a leadership challenge like no other. It has thrown us into unprecedented times and forced many businesses, and people into a state of distress. It’s inevitable that in our lifetime, leaders will face more of these challenges, and we need to start preparing ourselves to lead effectively. The new post-pandemic world will require much from our leaders. In assessing my leadership approach to this pandemic, I have found the following to be significant in the way we lead.

Support the bigger picture.
It’s during these difficult times that leaders need to rise, take responsibility, set the example and lead their teams better than ever before. Leaders need to be a part of the bigger team that’s trying to manage COVID-19’s impact on our country, its people and its economy. Your government, the world health organisation and the scientific and health industries all need your leadership support. Lead your team by setting the example of the behaviour our governments are asking us to embody. Become the advocate for social distancing, when in lockdown – stay at home. More than that lead with empathy in this regard, its hard as hell to remain isolated for this long. Encourage connection, check-in with people and do your utmost to understand their position – yet in all cases, encourage them to support the bigger picture.

Take a Long Hard Look at Today.
Don’t hide from the impact that COVID-19 will have. Assess it, no matter how bad the news. The sooner you assess it and know the effects, the sooner you can put plans in place to protect your business and its people. Pretending that “it will all be ok” is ignorant and irresponsible.  Everything is changing – priorities will change, communication is shifting, money is moving differently, demographics will evolve, attitudes and confidence will shift, and we’re on the verge of an entirely new world – the post-pandemic world.

Think Hard.
You may not have the luxury to take time to think about your response to COVID-19. You cannot use that as an excuse to move ahead without thinking.

Find the space, lock yourself in a room, get off the chat apps and webinars. You need to prioritise the time to think hard, get advice, and gain wise counsel. Keep thinking and processing until you have a way forward that is the best move you can make. As Mary Angelou reminds us, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

Move Swiftly with Confidence.
Teddy Roosevelt said, “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” That is all that’s expected of us as leaders. To find a way forward, making the best use of our resources, to improve the situation where you are. You may have an enormous influence, access to great resources – then leverage that and make the most significant impact on society that you can. If you only have a small influence and a few resources – then leverage that and make the most significant impact on society that you can. If everyone made the most of their resources in a time like this and looked after their clients, their neighbours, and their industry can you imagine the collective impact we could make?


Create a Safe Zone
This idea has incredibly challenged me. As human beings, we are happiest when we can balance our feelings of order with our sense of chaos. Too much order and we become bored and complacent, too much chaos and we become anxious, stressed out and depressed. In a pandemic like this, there is plenty of chaos. As a leader you need to create more order for your people, this is not the usual leadership principles we are told to leverage – the norm for leaders to lead people into the unknown, to escape the comfortable order to which people cling. In a pandemic, the typical day is chaotic instead of ordered, so leaders need to respond to help people balance themselves to find purpose in their work again.

Don’t Let Your Vision Die.
It’s tempting to stop chasing your dreams when it feels like everything is crashing around us. The more that people lose, the more they will need to find a purpose to hang onto. Your leadership can create that purpose and help people stay focused on the future rather than being emotionally beaten and defeated by their current circumstances.

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Leading Though COVID-19 is a presentation developed to help leaders navigate these uncertain times that demand unprecedented levels of transformation from businesses today

Find Out More about the Presentation
The Five Year Mark
The Five Year Mark is a collection of personal stories and lessons that Mike Saunders has learnt while building DigitLab. In short, easy to read chapters, the book covers a range of principles and lessons encountered during DigitLab’s first five years; including vision, leadership, operations, personal development, culture and more. The book is organised into 6 sections that collectively cover 34 lessons.

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