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The COVID-19 pandemic crisis has brought with it a crisis of leadership and adapting to the post-lockdown new normal will demand a new more agile style of leadership. This message emerged from an expert panel discussion looking at the subject of leadership in a pandemic hosted by Resilience First.

The leaders that took organizations into the crisis might not be the right ones to lead the organization out of it, as success in the new world will require a greater ability to adapt to changed circumstances. It will also demand a style of leadership that is prepared to be self-critical and empathetic to employees and their families.

Simon Collins, Chairman of Resilience First, said:

“Leadership is tough in any event and leaders are required to provide clarity and assurance to the people they lead. Providing this right now, when there is anything but certainty, does put the challenges of leadership into sharp perspective.”

“There is a big difference between leadership and management. There is no one size that fits all during a pandemic. There is no normality to return to, leaders should be aiming for a better new normal rather than just returning to what was there before.”

Prof Denis Fischbacher-Smith Professor of Risk Management at the Crichton Institute, said:

“The people who lead us into this crisis might not be the right ones to lead us out of the same crisis. As organizations grow they can be faced with a series of growth crises, needing different leaders. Once moved out of the steady state environment existing leaders often cannot cope.”

“Leaders need to be pushed practically and intellectually so that they can handle uncertainty when it comes along. The first thing a good leader will do is recognize that they don’t have all the answers and that they must have a group around them they trust to tell them when they are wrong.”

Seth Schultz, Global Executive Director Resilience Shift, said:

“What is fascinating about COVID-19 is that it is a slow onset crisis. It is the same crisis but hitting at different times in different places and the response has been according to what kind of readiness those different locations were in.”

“When a crisis hits, you handle it according to your underlying state of readiness and it will have a different impact according to how ready you are. You need to have a plan in place, but you also need to be able to respond quickly in an agile way.”

Basil Scarsella, CEO UK Power Networks, said:

“Having received a letter from the [UK] Prime Minister asking everyone to stay at home, I immediately had to write to all of our employees saying please come into work, because we are an essential service and we need to keep going. And they did.”

“The main driver that stood us in good stead when the pandemic hit was our long-standing corporate mission. We aim to be an employer of choice; we aim to be a trusted corporate citizen; and we aim to operate in a sustainable way. Don’t take goodwill from your employees and their families for granted. Employees are our most important asset.”

John Deverell CBE, CEO The Prepared Mind, said:

“Fortune favours the prepared mind. Take risk registers and exercises more seriously. The thinking behind a contingency plan costs nothing but time. The old adage, just enough, just in time is no longer valid either in terms of planning or thinking ahead.”

“Look at what you as a leader can do to take the pressure off others, such as the government and communities. Take a wider view on the purpose of your entity. Such as companies who have switched their entire operations over to making PPE.”

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