• Joe Hinson

How to Lead Your Organization Through a Pandemic

While leading an organization through the COVID-19 pandemic, most leaders have been forced to think and behave in ways that feel unfamiliar. COVID-19 changed the way we do business, communicate, and live. By June of 2020, the virus had infected more than 6 million people across the globe. Whether at work or in the community – crises demand that proactive leaders develop and implement a response plan and adapt it as new information and factors present themselves.

All the while, even with disruptions in the global economy, effective leaders need to remain calm and maintain a sense of perspective. During a pandemic, the goal is to keep things operating as normal as possible.

The Center for Creative Leadership, a top ranked global provider of leadership development, recommends the following actions to prepare and respond when leading an organization through a pandemic.

1. Seek Credible Information.

As leaders, it is our responsibility to determine the most reliable up-to-date information from trustworthy news sources. Avoid getting information only from social media and be wary of any news organizations that have a political, financial, or activist agenda. Check with more than one trusted news source to validate accuracy.

When leading through a pandemic such as COVID-19, it’s best to consult with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention where you can find advice on how to prepare and take action. The Chamber Alliance has been fortunate to work with the Butler County Emergency Management Agency, whose responsibility is to coordinate a response to crises that occur in Butler County.

2. Use relevant communication channels.

Once essential information is gathered, it should be communicated to the entire organization, and in some cases to your customers by every means possible. Transparency is key when leading through a pandemic. Sharing pertinent information keeps the organization running smoothly – it is especially true during a crisis. Information is powerful because it:

  • Reduces emotional distress caused by the unknown

  • Diminishes fear

  • Provides tactical guidance

  • Demonstrates to employees and others in the community that their leaders are concerned, involved, knowledgeable, and on top of the situation

3. Explain what your organization is doing about the pandemic.

The initial onset of a pandemic presents immense pressure to act – and act quickly. When information started to become more prevalent in March of last year, we had to begin tackling the problem before we had a solid grasp of what was happening. Remember, everyone observing or living through a pandemic, views it through a unique lens, and no one has a complete, accurate picture of what is going on.

Reduce air travel, ask more employees to work from home, place sanitizers in strategic places in the office, and encourage those with sniffles or a cough to stay home were just some of the decisions we had to make during COVID-19. It important, though, to take charge, be proactive and take initiative – communicate the actions taken truthfully and honestly.

4. Be present, visible, and available.

Particularly during a crisis, leaders need to be accessible. Employees and, in our case, Chamber Members, have a need to hear from the organization’s leaders frequently. When leaders appear calm, concerned, knowledgeable, and in charge, recipients of the message feel encouraged and are more likely to have confidence that things are under control and will be fine.

5. Remember the big picture.

Once the crisis is contained, and the pandemic transitions from its urgent phase, the time pressure will ease, as will the need for split-second decisions. Concentrate on the greater vision; the plan must evolve into a more complex system that looks at recovery and forges a new paradigm.

As vaccine distribution continues, we enter a new phase of the pandemic while still dealing with the challenges of this crisis. Providing accurate information, being proactive and transparent with communications, having leaders be accessible, and preparing your organization for the changes ahead are essential to leading your organization through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Thank you for being a valued member of the West Chester ▪ Liberty Chamber Alliance. Together we grow your business. Please be safe.