The COVID-19 pandemic has been very evasive and has invaded organizational cultures globally. It has affected what, which, how, when and where things are done in organizations. No longer is there safety in sticking with what brought success in the past. A ‘new normal’ is born, meaning, new working cultures have ensued in the corporate world. Consequently, the way of leading and managing organizations, as well as the behavior of the people in organizations, have to take a sharp turn for survival. An organization’s response to it must be bold in nature and destructive to its own entrenched culture, charting a new way of corporate life for survival.
The traditional view of looking up to appointed leaders in organizations to figure out the way forward cannot work under the ‘new normal’ corporate environment occasioned by the pandemic. We are living in a period of constant transition and the shelf life of our solutions to the issues that the ‘new normal’ presents keep getting shorter. What works becomes history in no time.
Leadership by All Employees
Everyone in the organization must exhibit leadership behaviour. It means, coping with the new corporate environment calls for ‘Leadership by All’, where no one is left out in leading, making hierarchical reverence less important for the survival of the business and assurance of job security. It is the regime of changing ‘order of things’ and unlocking the leadership potential of all manner of employees in the organization. Employees must be willing to break new grounds and influence others to come along, doing something new to move forward with oneself and others. Often the appointed leader doesn’t get to see every problem as quickly as the employee does. All in the organization must lead in their own right.
The question then is “How do organizations ensure ‘leadership by all’?
- Leadership Mindset
Unless all levels of employees are oriented and re-oriented to have the mindset to be pioneers, to explore, to go forward without guarantees and to move into the future without road maps, the organization will perish in the ‘new normal’ regime. Employees are to be made to take risks in the environment. Higher-level leadership must demonstrate with style and manner that leave no doubt about their commitment and endorsement of the expected leadership role of all employees in the organization.
- Communicate for Understanding of Employees
Employees need to hear the logic, the rationale behind the decision for the ‘new normal culture’ of leadership. Give them the hard facts about the evasive nature of the pandemic in the market place and the organization’s competitive position. Next, employees would want to know what is coming, and how they will be affected personally. You must give them a clear understanding of what is expected regarding the new ways of work. You need to preach hope and explain the part they are expected to play in the new leadership strategy.
- Listen and Listen Actively to Employees
More importantly, listen actively to employees. Making a genuine effort to understand the employees’ point of view about the new order ensures the willingness of employees to commit to exercise expected leadership behaviour at all times. Make a habit of listening to your employees and ask their opinion about the new order of leadership. If you listen first and listen with an open mind, employees are much more likely to cooperate when you decide something has to be done differently. Listening is taken for granted. But it’s the better-half of communication. Listening improves understanding and good interaction. It is one of the best ways for gathering facts, ideas, and recognizing feelings of people in a ‘new order.’
- Infuse Sense of Ownership in Employees
Sense of Ownership in the ‘new normal culture’ is taking charge of every pursuit of the business as one’s supreme duty. Research and practice have proven time and again that participation generates ownership. Employees in an organization are likely to modify their own behaviour when they participate in problem analysis and solution and likely to carry out the decision, they have helped in making.
- Search for Opportunities
All employees must be freed to search for openings that can lead to a better future and believe in the opportunities and will make opportunities appear. Every employee must figure out what the organization needs, then move on it. Stretching employees with unfamiliar pursuits are critical in this era. Self-directed behaviour is essential in this world of ‘new normal’ in the process of determining what works best.
- Problem Solving
All levels of employees must be in charge of problem-solving. One doesn’t need to have all the answers. Nobody does. Employees need to just show some initiative. Come up with their own answers and there’s a good chance they’ll be better than you could get anybody else. Most of the time employees must be coached to come up with completed work and not coming to supervisors with problems along the way.
- Set Employees Free From un-workable Policies and Procedures
Importantly, in the ‘new normal’ environment employees are set free from policies and procedures that do not work. Early moves must be bold, dramatic, totally out of character so far as the old order is concerned. Employees have to believe that the organization is dead serious about this endeavour and determined to see it through. Doing things, the same old way may seem a lot safer, but it actually hurts the organization’s chances for success in this pandemic raid. A culture where people won’t stick their necks out won’t find it easy to win. It will not also serve the right environment for everyone to exercise leadership behaviour in the organization.
- Improve Leadership Capacity Building
To facilitate the practice of ‘leadership by all’ in an organization, leadership capacity building for employees must be a regular feature for all in the development strategy of the organization. This must start from the entry-level at the onboarding stage and must dovetail into the learning and development agenda of the organization for all. The purpose is to develop leadership skills that will enhance an individual’s capacity at an early stage of career building and to discover the employee’s innate potentials for leadership effectiveness at any level. Leadership is relentlessly developmental especially in the regime of ‘leadership by all employees.’
In conclusion, for all employees to lead in their own right, the entire organization must welcome disruption by the COVID-19 pandemic. It may sound strange, but disruption is one of today’s conditions for survival. Organizational leaders must have faith in the employees as an untapped leadership resource to be deployed unusually. All levels of employees must have faith in the opportunities in the ‘new normal’ environment. People do the best job of managing new fields when the mindset is relentlessly positive. Leadership by all will make life easier and quicker for organizations. Time productivity will be high and business results may be of high quantum.
Dr. Richard Kyereboah