As a PR and communications consultancy, the last two weeks have been an incredibly busy period for us, as well as clients – as everyone looks to come to terms with the implications of the lockdown period, adapt to the ‘new normal’ and understand the impact the changing context will have – on themselves, their business, their staff and their clients – in the short and medium-term.
Of course, most companies are communicating – what they can, when they can, and this is great. And many brands have (thankfully) understood the need to continue to communicate during lockdown – not merely around the impact of the lockdown on their business – but more importantly, how to get business ready for when lockdown is finished, understanding what this will look like and how things will change.
However, from a PR perspective what has stood out the most for me during this time is not merely the response(s) to this crisis, or the feeling of isolation or fear of the unknown, but the leadership that is being shown. This has become a trademark to so many – and I hope, their legacy.
Just look at our President, who under very challenging circumstances has demonstrated incredible leadership. He is clear, concise, calm and compassionate. Admirable traits of a conscious and authentic leader – and this has resonated with many and set the tone for how business and everyday people have responded to this challenge.
We see business leaders applying the same tone to their outreach with staff and the market, we see brands responding with clear messages and support, and we see people, who are on the frontline every day, providing essential services, respond with the same sense of collective responsibility and clarity. This has been incredible to witness and while there are many people who can argue that more should be done or that we could do better – I would still argue that leadership is a key outcome for our society.
For years people (and PR consultancies) have spoken about the need for real leadership and of course there have been some case studies of people and companies who have demonstrated this in the past – but not to this degree, nor with such a sense of purpose – to help and support EVERYONE – not just their own – but everyone. And given how frail humanity is right now and with many facing increasingly hard times, leadership is needed now more than ever. We need clarity and we need to feel the sense of concern that comes from others in these dark times.
So, what lessons can then be taken from the leadership and their conduct during this time – which can be applied to most of us – no matter the situation:
- Manage yourself first. If you want to lead you have to have a good understanding of yourself – what you want, how you respond to different scenarios (both stressful and not) and how this reflects on your future ability to distill trust and confidence.
- Adapt quickly. Leaders cannot have a ‘wait and see’ approach – they need to anticipate what will happen and understand what skills and advice to put in place to be in the best position to adapt. For too long, business leaders have been fearful of moving too quickly – in case it has a negative effect – but don’t let your need for precision outweigh your opportunity.
- Communicate. No matter what the challenge, communicate – people want to hear from their leaders – be it business, community, family or political. They want to know that you know, and you hear them – and most importantly, that you will respond.
- Don’t work in isolation. No real leader does it on their own – they have a support base, they bring in the right skills, they ask for assistance, they gather information and form partnerships to help make things a reality. Real leaders surround themselves with brilliant people, period.
- Keep learning. A real leader does not stop looking for the right information, the right solutions, the right approach and the right partners – they must keep learning to stay on top of this evolving world. A leader values input from everyone.
- They are real. Leaders know that building trust is a crucial element of leading – but this means understanding your own humanity and empathy – and remaining authentic. You won’t get everything right and you won’t please everyone, all the time – but you can still lead with humanity and understanding.
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