Dr Akhil Shahani is the Managing Director of Thadomal Shahani Centre For Management, Shahani Group and CEO, Ask.Careers and runs a range of colleges in business, media, real estate, finance and others. His colleges incorporate global industry-oriented education systems that make their graduates truly employable. He is also a Venture Partner in Kaizen Private Equity, India’s first private equity fund focused solely on the education sector. Besides, Akhil serves as the Chairman of Global Discovery Schools, a franchised chain of 14 innovative schools. In 2020, HSNC University appointed Dr Akhil as a governing board member.
The novel coronavirus pandemic has tested us like never before. All around the world, educational institutions and businesses have faced an unprecedented volley of crises. While a lot of organisations understandably faltered through it all, many remained resilient and emerged stronger. Strong leadership is often the driving force behind steering an organisation through troubled times. Here are a few essential qualities that every leader must possess to navigate a crisis successfully.
Effective and honest communication
Communication is probably the most important skill needed when dealing with a crisis situation. All throughout history, great leaders have used effective communication to motivate people, galvanise them, and provide hope. In a crisis such as this pandemic, misinformation and miscommunication are a recipe for disaster, especially because it is a time when people look to their leaders to provide a sense of calm and stability. Hence, leaders need to communicate clearly and concisely to assuage people’s fears and concerns. Leaders should also put a premium on communicating promptly by relaying the most pertinent information quickly.
Adaptability and Agility
Leadership is all about planning in advance, but more often than not, things do not go according to plans, and this pandemic has been an apt example of that. During times like these, leaders need to exhibit the willingness to adapt to a crisis and work on the problem. For example, businesses that adapted to stringent social distancing norms during lockdowns by going online and creating a strong digital backend are the ones that are now thriving. Good leaders should be willing to look at a problem from a different perspective and be able to think of agile solutions that can make the best of a bad situation.
Risk is an inevitable part of our world today, and no modern-day CEO can afford to be ignorant of risk management. Being risk-aware and introducing strong risk management processes in one’s organisation can ensure that a company and its employees are prepared to weather adverse events such as a pandemic, a cyber-attack, any natural disaster, and much more.
Too often, being strong and resilient becomes synonymous with showing no emotion. But this notion has time and again been proven wrong. In fact, there is strength in leaders showing empathy and emotional vulnerability; it shows people that they too are human and that together a crisis can be overcome. A great example of a leader communicating with empathy would be that of New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Her clear messaging has been constantly laced with kindness and emotion. Whether it was the Christchurch attacks or the Covid-19 pandemic, her empathetic demeanour has been the epitome of good leadership.
Providing emotional support
In her latest article titled ‘Real Leaders Are Forged in Crisis’ business historian, Nancy Koehn talks about how crises can take their toll on leaders and employees alike. She, therefore, encourages leaders to nurse their emotional wellbeing in a time of crisis so that they can be emotionally and mentally available for their employees when needed. A crisis of mammoth proportions like this global pandemic can fuel unprecedented anxieties; people are worried about losing their jobs, financial security, losing their loved ones, falling sick themselves, and much more. Amidst such fear, it is the job of leaders to have a pulse on their employees, ask them if they are doing ok, and listen to what they need.
Modern-day leadership models are an amalgamation of EQ and IQ, and only those who can straddle both these spheres effectively can emerge as strong leaders during a crisis.