Is Leadership Different in a New Normal World?
In times of crisis, leadership is more important than ever. But what does leadership look like in a new normal world?
Is it possible to write an article about the challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic without using the word unprecedented? Probably not. It’s true that even those of us that have been through a number of economic cycles linked to the hospitality industry have not seen anything quite like this.
Having said that, working closely with individuals and businesses through the last 18 weeks (yes, it is just 18 weeks since lockdown began at the time of writing) and more recently travelling in the UK and making plans for Continental Europe, has led me to reflect on the role of leadership as we emerge into the new normal. I say new normal as, for me, I firmly hope that things don’t return to just as they were before. For example, the consideration of others I see around me is something that I hope is here to stay.
It’s true that even those of us that have been through a number of economic cycles linked to the Hospitality Industry have not seen anything quite like this.
Volumes have been said and written about how to manage business during the pandemic and I’ve been refreshed to see many hospitality consultants offering their help and assistance without seeking to charge. I’ve personally used and recommended the output of the McKinsey work to many as a route map to plan through the current environment, https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/coronavirus-leading-through-the-crisis.
There are a number of observations that strike me about the requirements for leadership as we move to this new normal. Firstly is the need for positive leadership itself. Leadership means many things to different people, I follow the model that teams of people can deliver more than the sum of the parts, 1+1+1 can really equal 5 and that requires leadership that people really connect with. At one level it requires an authentic value set which resonates with the team; honesty, integrity, fairness are just some of the elements which play their part in people deciding if you might be someone they’d like to be led by.
I’ve been fortunate to be around young people during lockdown and recently completed a week of activities in the Lake District with a group of 8 under 25’s. Reflecting on our discussions, I noted that I’d been asked questions about what to do next in life, how to manage this situation or that situation, and what my recommendations would be for career direction.
It reminded me that whilst those of us with some years of experience have reference points to contrast Covid-19 to, Gulf War(s), the 2008 financial crash and more, these under 25’s had little or no reference point and that was making the current situation all the more uncomfortable and, for some, frightening. I think it would be helpful for leaders to remember that those around us who are younger may need a different level and type of support from us and our organisations than we may have first thought, and develop and implement strategies to meet those needs.
Change is constant, I’m sure we have all been on a training programme or two that told us that, or have more than one management book on our shelves (perhaps as yet unread) and so finding ways in current times however dark and challenging to seek out the positive and look for the opportunity will allow leaders to provide stability and surety in their organisations in times of turmoil despite challenging environments.
People adapt and the new normal will emerge, travelling recently allowed me to see first-hand the creative way the lady who owns the tea and cake shop has managed to open and run her business, the provisions the outward bounds guides have put in place for safety, the booking system and on-line menu and ordering process the waterfront bistro has developed, and the email communication process hotels in the Alps pre-arrival have adopted. We absolutely will find a way through and beyond Covid-19.
The power of communication should never be underestimated, and the need for communication never overlooked. Even though our teams may not hear anything new on this week’s Chief Executive conference call, the very fact that it is happening, continues to happen, provides leadership and a degree of security in a world of uncertainties helps less good news be managed as positively as can be in any given circumstance. I’ve seen some very creative and engaging ways of utilising the new and emerging channels of communication open to business and individuals today. How do you really know how effective your current internal and external communications strategies are?
The power of communication should never be underestimated. Even though teams may not hear anything new on this week’s Chief Executive conference call, the very fact that it is happening provides leadership and a degree of security in a world of uncertainties.
I’d observe that senior leaders should have their own support networks too. Leadership can be a very lonely place and it once appeared odd to me that from the day of taking on such a role, people around me seemed to expect me to know the answers.
The additional pressures and stress of managing and leading a business through such ‘unprecedented’ times should be recognised and coping strategies considered.
That support can come from a variety of sources and in many different ways, if you have access to Non-Executive Directors I would counsel using them for guidance. Perhaps it’s a partner, colleague or friend where you feel safe and secure. Trusting in confidentiality is often important. An increasing number of organisations now have internal coaching and mentoring programmes, or use external providers and I would encourage you to seek out and maximise the benefit from any of these opportunities.
It never fails to amaze me how very often, in discussion and exploration, creative solutions can be identified to problems and opportunities, some of which hadn’t even been recognised.
So, I conclude that leadership is not necessarily different in the new normal world and, like ever, it requires to be underpinned by a core value set and the skills that have been developed over time, an understanding of the context we are operating in and what’s important to allow us to identify and focus on the key elements for now. That’s what I predict will differentiate success. I wonder if taking time out to reflect and consider what those key elements are in your business and what your plans for each are, might be a worthwhile investment of time?
Following more than 30 years in the Hospitality Industry, latterly as Group Chief Executive of Queens Moat Houses plc appointed to oversee the sale of the Group, achieved solvently to Whitehall Funds for £544m in 2004 and subsequently 11 years with Realstar Group managing the 70+ IHG (Holiday Inn and Crowne Plaza) hotels prior to successful disposal in 2015, Stuart qualified from the Executive Coaching programme at Henley International Business School. He established BE3 (Be3uk.com) to provide Coaching, Mentoring and Mediation services to CEO’s, C-Suite and individuals seeking to unlock their potential. BE3 also provides Non-Executive Director and Advisory Services to a range of businesses in multiple sectors.
Stuart works pro-bono providing coaching skills in the National Health Service and with young emerging leaders.
If you’d like to know more, or get in touch for a discussion around this article or more, Stuart would be delighted to hear from you on +44-7796-261099