The last one year has delivered lessons that none ever thought was possible in a profit-driven world. The future belongs to anyone who will stretch the limits
The pandemic has become a rallying cry for global organizations. They immediately responded with work-from-home which rapidly became work-from-anywhere last year, and when the second wave hit this year, companies swiftly acted to rally around employees to help each other, organize resources, set up infrastructure, use their strategic management skills to create platforms to collaborate, and combat the crisis.
Employees showed outstanding leadership skills to mount massive humanitarian initiatives almost on a war-scale. Inspirational stories of how people helped each other to get a hospital bed, emergency medicine or oxygen supplies showed how employees were living and breathing the organizational values which have always remained framed on the walls.
Most organizations used their digital collaboration platforms to communicate the services available for employees – from homecare to vaccines, doctor-on-call, or hospitalization support. Volunteer groups of employees were formed to provide the last-mile physical services using the personal and professional networks of individuals. Project management skills have been leveraged to coordinate the organization wide efforts to reach out and help each other.
Leadership brought people, process, and technology together to execute an emergency support plan for employees. Planning, decision making, and execution have become almost real time as the crisis in India snowballs. Organizations learned the real meaning of collaboration as often lives were at stake. For leaders this was a time when they set aside corporate goals and placed employee health and safety above everything else. Companies realized that this was the time to show empathy, business could wait.
It was a time for the Humble-Hero Leader. The digital age calls for hero leaders, people who are willing to make bold decisions (like shedding certain business positions or staking out new ones) in times of uncertainty. At the same time leaders need to have the humility to acknowledge what they don’t know and to bring on board people with potentially very different skills, backgrounds, and capabilities. They need to be willing to learn from others who may have less leadership tenure, but more relevant insights. They need to be highly inclusive and great listeners to understand not only new technologies, but also new ways of doing things that are different from how they did it before.
Leaders assembled teams rapidly, drew up plans, and executed those in almost real time. Decisions taken in the morning are being executed by evening. When lives are risks, processes must be nimble enough for instantaneous execution. They became strategic executors, functioning in a dynamic complex scenario where the future is foggy.
Strategy is Key
No one could imagine a situation that could be as volatile, complex, and uncertain as it is today. Those leaders who are able to successfully navigate today’s complexities and speed at which it is happening are learning an invaluable lesson that will help them tremendously in the future, to function as strategic executors to have clarity about what the new world will look like and what their company’s place in that world is going to be.
This will require highly strategic leaders, visionaries who can step back from the day to day to see where the world is headed, understand how value can be created in the future in ways that are different from today’s, and stake out a powerful position for the company. Being a good strategist, however, isn’t enough. Leaders need to be equally skilled at execution. They need to own the transformation of the company needed to reach the future.
They need to be able to translate strategy into specific executional steps and see that execution through to the end. They need to be able to make rapid operational decisions that help deliver the path to the future. In many ways, the digital model of value creation may require even stronger execution skills than in the past since there is so much to do to push the limits of what’s possible.
COVID-19 has become a tough teacher, delivering lessons that no one ever thought was possible. The future will belong to those who will take these lessons to heart and learn from them.