Written by: Christoph von Togenberg –    Translated by: Dr. Jamil Abu Al-Abbas Al-Rayyan

  • Arab Democratic Center

Why do leaders need to forget most of what they know about leadership?

Not so long ago, when the impact of the emerging virus (Corona Covid-19) was still great on the countries of the Far East, life and business continued in Europe as usual – for some time – and it seemed as if the virus was locally contained.

And with deep concern about the spread of the virus and its follow-up and follow-up of each of us, everyone was in a state of emergency, and we realized that there was not enough time to prepare for a possible outbreak of the virus, and while neglecting the first wave of the virus was followed by many waves, as happened in the tsunami.

And since any crisis requires decisive action and clarity, I have realized this through my work for a decade in conflicts around the world, and leadership in extraordinary times also requires dealing with a high level of uncertainty, and since (Corona Covid-19) is an “enemy” Invisible and Limitless The leaders – even the most naive leaders – had to realize that any day wasted in responding and preparing is a day when lives are in danger, and they had to realize that this crisis is not a crisis during which it is averted by a scapegoat. ; Pointing fingers at the scapegoat does not help in such situations.

All of a sudden, my native Switzerland has been hit hard. As a country, we were well prepared but we have not faced any national crisis since World War II. According to the World Health Organization, Switzerland is one of the most affected countries in Europe. Although the situation is challenging, I am also grateful to have “luxury” access to one of the best health systems in the world. While others were not so lucky. Especially when we think about the possibility of the virus spreading among many refugees crowded in camps or countless refugees who do not even have access to any health facility, can you imagine what the outbreak means for them? And what does that mean for leaders around the world? What does it mean to drive in such difficult times? Where can I prioritize and what should I stop doing?

Here are some tips:

– Lance everything you know about leadership:

In unpredictable crises such as the Coronavirus, leadership is different; Because the crisis here is not a crisis of a slowdown in the progress of the reform process in the country or a decline in the economy, but a health crisis threatening the whole world, which requires leaders or those who are accustomed to lead to do different things and act in a different way from what they are accustomed to. Because the decision may not only have effects on the work or the organization, but it may also have effects on society as a whole, and here the risk is greater and more effective.

When a 2016 study published in Group Organization Management examined leadership in organizations that had survived a crisis, it concluded that “even when life was at stake, the best leaders were able to help employees experience positive emotions, which were key to maintaining employees’ mental strengths. The more flexible the employees, the more flexible the organization as a whole.

This means that some decisions may have to be taken faster and bolder; Do you think, for example, that every time an employee has to commute to and from work, he is exposed to a potential risk that poses a potential threat to the team or other passengers?

Therefore, driving during a crisis is different. Be prepared to learn at the speed of light and forget most of what you know about driving.

Be a leader:

In a crisis, there needs to be an informed leader. Crisis management is not a democratic process, there must be one leader; But this does not mean that the leader has to make decisions alone. Rather, it is necessary to work with a team of advisors who are experts, senior management and employees from various departments of the organization, and this helps the leadership team understand the concerns of employees.

Winston Churchill was adept at summarizing challenges and at the same time providing the response. When he took office in 1940, he said, “You ask, ‘What is our goal? I can answer in one word. It is victory, victory at any cost. Victory despite all the horror. Victory, no matter how long and difficult the road is, because without victory there is no survival. ”

So be prepared to make decisions and stand behind them. Never fail to catch the fast track and surround yourself with realistic, informative voices of experts.

– The leaders ate last

(Simon Scenic) was famous for his book “Leaders Finally Eating”, in which he laid down the leadership conditions that show that leaders in crises should be clear and their purpose should be to the benefit of the team, the organization and society as a whole, and the leader should not jump off the ship and stay on the surface. During stormy times, the leader’s job is to reassure teams and customers alike, and this isn’t always easy, especially in unpredictable times like these.

This is the meaning of humble servant leadership. Leaders should care, listen and act according to the interest of others. Even in the event of a shipwreck, the captain does not leave the ship until the last person has evacuated.

So as a leader, you should think about the team, the organization, and its purpose before you think of yourself.

Use expressions of gratitude:

The leader should always be with his team during their working hours he should not let go of them; Most of the time, teams dealing with crises have to work beyond their means and beyond their capacity. This means that the leader must be there, listen, and most of all, express his thanks to his team. There is nothing more frustrating for employees than feeling that they are just machines, not humans.

In Madrid (Spain) on March 14, 2020, something amazing happened: at 10 pm, people all over the city stood on their balconies and applauded the medical staff dealing with the Corona crisis. A beautiful manifestation of gratitude, and since then many people have led campaigns to express their gratitude.

So, I thank generously, thank a lot, thank everyone.

Communicating and dealing positively with the situation:

Leaders should not be like regular employees – otherwise why are they leaders? – as most employees are known to be very afraid of decision-making, and that their dependence on leadership leaves them vulnerable. Therefore, leaders should be clear and positive, as clarity and transparency are essential in such times and they must not be afraid of making bold decisions, and this does not mean that leaders are not afraid. They may be terrified, but their role is to deliver positivity and confidence to the rest of the team. Information is the anchor to which people cling. But it should be short, realistic, clear and comprehensible, and don’t forget to explain why.

So, report regularly and keep everyone updated.

Forecasting and planning:

The leader and his team must always be ahead of the situation; For example, with (Covid-19), there are some measures imposed by the various authorities, including that decisions may have to be changed in an instant. Therefore, leaders must have different plans and prepare different (scenarios) and this is the key to crossing the crisis, for example, will movement be restricted tomorrow? Will the entire team go into quarantine due to a member of the team contracting Covid-19 disease? A crisis may force us to throw everything we learned yesterday to the surface of the wall, and everything we learned yesterday may become obsolete tomorrow. From this, flexibility or fluidity is the basic skill required in these situations and which a leader must possess.

So, create different scenarios and set them up so that you have a plan ready for each. For example, we prepared 4 scenarios from start to maximum.

Fear is a bad advisor:

Fear prevents us from thinking clearly and acting pragmatically, so it is never considered an honest counselor, and fear is sometimes useful. So it is no wonder that some risks trigger these feelings. Because fear helps protect you and is therefore adaptable, practical and necessary. ” Fear has made us switch to a hit-and-run scenario, this may be beneficial for survival in the wild, but it can lead to bad and hasty decisions in a crisis like this.

Like a virus, fear can easily infect some people and infect an entire team. In a risk study, participants who were consistently fearful made judgments and choices that were relatively pessimistic and reinforced their perception of risk in a given situation, in contrast to happy or angry participants who were more likely to ignore risk by making them relatively optimistic. Judgments and Choices (Lerner and Keltner, 2001).

Therefore, a leader should use a calm, clear, and positive approach. And the creation of checks and balances help mitigate the risks of making hasty decisions in situations driven by fear.

Crash and learn quickly:

As you begin preparing for emergencies, you should be aware of the number of challenges you will have to overcome in order to be prepared in time. Because the change is not just about changing the technical (technology) settings of how it works (IT systems, workflow, processes, etc.); Because you must be a leader in any crisis that you work to change the mindset of people, and influence their culture, in addition to that, help the team through guidance, links and training to understand the use of new collaborative tools, disrupt but quickly learn to eliminate many of the deficiencies, helped to change How the team works and looks differently at almost every process.

So, don’t be afraid to be disrupted and see this challenge as an opportunity for renewal.

You are not alone but connected:

We are now facing a crisis that science did not know before and a similar crisis in danger to the lives of people in the world since World War II, and we are now in a world that gives great weight to the individual and his personal life, and despite this, we have lost a large part of what our ancestors were brought up with where our ancestors grew In a world where everyone had to help one another to overcome the challenges of war and its aftermath, in a world driven by GDP and individual economic empowerment, yet we have lost a large part of that collective feeling; But this crisis affects everyone and requires a common response. Because the virus knows no borders, race, or financial condition. It only searches for hosts, regardless of where they are and how much they own. This is why, despite the need for social distancing, leaders and their teams need to work together, to cooperate and nurture. By supporting each other and respecting the rules, for example, we realized that social distancing does not mean that we all work in silos or that we are confined to our homes. Thanks to the many tools that exist today, we can collaborate remotely without avoiding complete isolation.

Imagine, how the events of 9/11, or the tsunami of 2004, brought people from all over the world together and sparked global solidarity. I very much hope this is another opportunity to be leaders for the common good. It is a new era for compassion, work and vision.

Everyone is a Leader:

Leaders, regardless of where they are, should seize opportunities and not deal according to the titles that are placed in front of their names, and only leadership is not by titles, we are all leaders and leaders are not born, but appear in situations in which they need to.

But each of us should seize this opportunity and responsibility. Leading others means, first and foremost, leading oneself.