I interviewed 22 leaders about their leadership lessons during and beyond Covid-19. I summarized 7 key insights from these interviews. The third one is: The leader is in pole position.
Leaders love crises because they trigger their deep-felt human need to be relevant and to matter to the environment. In a crisis, the CEO matters more than in times of business as usual.
Everybody is looking to the top. People have expectations and projections that have consequences for the leader. Rank and file workers are all anxious and their leaders can’t be. They cannot pretend that they know it all (because they don’t), but nevertheless they need to radiate the confidence that they are on top of things.
There is nothing wrong with feeling responsible and acting on that. But leaders should also realize that there is more to do than is humanly possible in a 24-hour day and that they cannot always be where or with whom they want to be. They need to take care of themselves physically, mentally and emotionally too.
Leaders shouldn’t be tempted to use all the powers that are given to them. In a crisis, employees tend to escalate to the top but that is not where all the decisions should be made. People need to be empowered to make their own decisions and leaders should never overrule people who know better but rather bite their tongues and refrain from over-centralizing. They should also realize that being in control is an illusion.
A crisis is the right time for non-executives to reconsider the composition of the board. Different times require different leaders; there are horses for courses. The height of the crisis might not seem the right time to replace a leader, but waiting longer can be costly.