Stem the panic with decisive leadership

decisive leadership

Organisations that have waited until now to realise they have inadequate leadership strategies in place will find themselves on the defensive; focused on staying afloat rather than moving forward. Knowing when to pivot and abandon strategies that have previously worked can mean the difference between success or failure and is an essential skill in a downturn, writes Clarke Murphy

2020 was always destined to be a challenging year for business.

The year started with Brexit, the upcoming US election, ongoing trade battles, bushfires and climate change dominating news and business agendas. Then on 7 January when officials announced a new virus, COVID-19, the global economy was upended once more with a wholly different curveball to manage.

COVID-19, or Coronavirus, is having a profound impact on trade, commerce, staffing, global and local supply chains. However, it appears that fear may be our biggest foe in this crisis.

Decisive leadership does not negate the need to consult and listen to your peers. Truly great leaders listen to a wide range of opinions – not just those at the top – and focus on asking questions rather than trying to provide all the answers themselves.

Without strong and decisive leadership, panic ensues. Are today’s leaders prepared to cope with this level of disruption and chaos?

Prior to the Coronavirus outbreak, we surveyed 534 senior executives about their ability to respond to a potential market downturn.

Of those surveyed, just 8 per cent of executives surveyed described themselves as prepared to manage through an economic depression. CHROs were even less assured in their level of preparedness, with just 9 per cent reporting confidence.

With the pressure now on, it is time for organisations to take charge.

Identify leaders willing to act
Organisations that have waited until now to realise they have inadequate leadership strategies in place will find themselves on the defensive; focused on staying afloat rather than moving forward.

According to our global research, almost half of senior supply chain leaders and operations executives (47 per cent) are not currently required to have a plan in place in case of a downturn.

Furthermore, 51 per cent of COOs and chief supply chain officers state that even when contingency plans are in place to manage economic downturns, their CEO has chosen not to enact them.

Knowing when to pivot and abandon strategies that have previously worked can mean the difference between success or failure and is an essential skill in a downturn.

Previous recessions have shown the importance of decisive leadership. According to the Harvard Business Review, companies that have successfully weathered past economic challenges took three key steps:

  1. They held proactive discussions about business threats and acted early
  2. They attended to short term issues, but ultimately took a longer-term view
  3. They focused on growth, not just cost-cutting

Prioritise effective communication
Uncertain or slow responses to key challenges will produce anxiety among your workforce that can flow through to customers, suppliers and stakeholders. When silence can quickly be interpreted as bad news, clear communication is essential.

Workshop how your leadership team will respond to key issues and have clear policies in place to prioritise prompt communication at all levels throughout the business.

Build resilient and adaptive teams
A downturn will require a nimble and resilient team who are also empowered to act.

This does not require a complete staff overhaul, instead, look to build these skills by stress-testing the capabilities of individuals and teams to deliver on plans and projects, quickly and efficiently.

This process will help to identify those with the grit, mental toughness and tenacity to calmly excel under pressure. Earmark these individuals with the right skills and personal fortitude for future leadership opportunities.

Without strong leadership, panic ensues. Are today’s leaders prepared to cope with this level of disruption and chaos?

Listen and learn
Decisive leadership does not negate the need to consult and listen to your peers. Truly great leaders listen to a wide range of opinions – not just those at the top – and focus on asking questions rather than trying to provide all the answers themselves.

The key to staying ahead of the curve comes down to confident and decisive leadership. Organisations with leaders who are quick-acting, forward-thinking and focused on growth will be rewarded for their foresight – even during a recession.

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