Leading through the abnormal to get to a new normal

by | 13 May 2020 | Executive boards

Undoubtedly, we are in the biggest at-scale test of dynamic working and leading says Karen Thomas-Bland, founder at Seven, a business transformation consultancy based in London. Technology has enabled us, and the virus has forced us to reinvent the way we work, learn and find solutions to problems, regardless of location.

Whichever way we look at it, 2020 is shaping up to be one of the most disruptive years in centuries, with far reaching social, economic and political implications.

We have also witnessed one of the largest human transformations — companies have suddenly become much more humane, not just because we have seen more of our network’s children, cats, dogs, partners, husbands and wives, but because people have become more kind, helpful and selfless. People are relating to each other in much more personal, meaningful and open ways. It has taken remoteness to lead to greater connectedness.

So, what are the leadership challenges as we navigate through the crisis?

1. Reducing the trust deficit — we have a great opportunity to step up, be part of the solution to the crisis and bridge the trust deficit that has emerged over time between business and society.

2. Community connectivity — linked to trust we have the opportunity to build much greater connectivity to the communities we are part of and there are already great examples of this in practice.

3. Managing the enormous stress and anxiety — this is as much a mental as well as physical health crisis. Everyone is dealing with something and we need to encourage people to talk and ask for help.

4. Drawing on a transformational leadership style — because it provides individual consideration, we understand the situation and care and this resonates with people, particularly in times of change.

5. Tapping into human ingenuity — using the moment of pause to reflect on how we accelerate and go faster to the future with all the things we were doing, so we come out even stronger.

6. Leading with purpose and hope — putting people first, getting in front of the situation, taking action, over communicating, leading with values we have set out and explaining ‘why’ with greater compassion than ever before.

7. Not losing sight of the long-term value and big challenges — global health, climate change, global inequality and using the crisis as a platform for transformation, as an opportunity to imagine a new normal.

8. Leaving a strong legacy — we need to look back and feel that we have helped people when they needed it, ‘built back better’, remained resilient, leaned-in to the challenge and had the courage to lead through it.

Based in London and with over 24 years’ global experience, Karen Thomas-Bland is often cited as one of the top business transformation consultants and coaches in the world. She is a trusted, global board-level advisor and non-executive director, creating sustainable, long-term value for FTSE/Fortune businesses and PE funds. She writes for many publications including The Times, FT, Association of MBAs and Management Today.