A lot of politicians including President Donald Trump are suggesting that fighting Covid-19 pandemic is like fighting a war. I think that is a fitting definition as someone who has studies how leaders interact. But Donald Trump is not the only general in this war. Company CEOs do have vital leadership roles to ply, because the recession testifies to their desire to support their employees not only thrive and stay alive, but also be inspired and committed during this pandemic.
How can this be handled best?
I reviewed 21 academic researches on communication in the field of executive leadership and performed a textual study of 12 business studies related to communication with organizations and leadership during the Covid-19 pandemic.
I have learned 5 main topics that could provide insights into how CEOs are supposed to interact in COVID-19 with their staff.
1. Transparency matters
Transparency enables leaders to provide relevant data freely and actively to workers in a prompt, consistent and easy to digest fashion; provide detailed information on what is changing, what the effect is and how the organization manages it; and to provide specific instructions about what employees should do.
It also means empowering staff to speak out and express their opinions and worries. This kind of transparency fosters trust and decreases confusion – particularly in the event of a disaster.
In a video statement to the staff, Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson showed this when he did not want to reduce the damages his company incurred in the crisis.
2. Convey your authenticity
Genuine leadership is not a new idea for the business sector, and a substantial part of academic and industry research has validated its success in achieving positive employee results.
Although CEOs are prepared to act, but times like a pandemic present enormous difficulties to a company’s leadership. In an age where the confusion is greater than the certainty, often they actually don’t know what to do.
That’s all right. Indeed, CEOs who honestly share struggles will show the human aspect of leadership. Workers are searching for guidance and support from leaders. They don’t actually want the CEOs to be superheroes.
In order to communicate in an authentic way, CEOs should remain true to their ideals and convictions and uphold their commitments. They also need to be self-aware about what they are capable of, and honest in their contact with workers – even if they don’t realize what’s happening.
Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, showed this characteristic when he admitted to his staff, “There’s no instruction book about how to behave at a moment such as this,” and added his own list of concerns, such as the wellbeing of his family and coworkers.
3. Show your empathy
The importance of empathy was probably the most important concept in my study of best practice.
In my own recent research, which looked at leadership communication throughout the expected organizational transition – like a merger – I found that contact with Empathy strengthened employee confidence and contributed to engagement and acceptance of that shift.
The COVID-19 pandemic poses similar issues as workers face immense uncertainty and negative feelings, such as panic, depression, anxiety and anger. CEOs may help to reduce employees’ stress and create a connection with them by showing support and standing in their shoes.
4. Put people first
The Covid-19 pandemic hammers the bottom line of businesses, from production to earnings. CEOs that put the safety and wellbeing of staff first show their morality.
This people-centered mentality is essential to the sustainability and long-term growth of the company, as workers are the foundation of the company and ultimately build a competitive edge for the organisation.
We have seen several indications of this during the present crisis, such as the CEOs of Bank of America, Citigroup, FedEx and Visa, who have vowed not to lay off any staff as a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic.
5. Demonstrate optimism
Expressing optimism or hope is a particularly essential quality of leadership in difficult times where it is common for people to encounter negative emotions and tensions. Leaders that show an optimistic view in the language of their communication and encourage positive mindset empower and motivate employees.
A perfect example of that is Levi Strauss CEO Chip Bergh, who wrote an open letter to staff urging them to concentrate on the silver lining of the crisis.
“One of the factors that motivates me during this tough time is the belief that we should learn and change and adapt so that we become bigger as a result of this test,” he said. The situation is going to pass. We’re going to get through this together and become a stronger and better organization as a whole.
And in my own university, University of Florida President Kent Fuchs informed students and employees of their “tradition of joining forces and rising up to face new challenges with hope and commitment.”
During difficult times such as the COVID-19 pandemic, leaders need strong leadership capabilities like this to encourage faith, confidence and optimism throughout their staff – the necessary elements to win the war.