The Corporate World which is full of leaders with fancy C-Suite designations, fat salaries and bonuses got completely caught off-guard by Covid-19 (C19) pandemic. When the C19 was declared as a Pandemic in the month of March 2020, the entire corporate world came to a grinding halt.
The pandemic indeed has been an ultimate leadership test for all corporate leaders. Leaders were always aware on how businesses should be prepared to face challenges, prepared for disruptions, business continuity, disaster recovery, risk management, succession planning and so on. However, most companies started scrambling on their Business Continuity Plan once the pandemic was announced. Many were unclear on how to handle the situation.
Very few companies and their leadership demonstrated that the first and foremost thing is the safety and security of their employees, customers, and suppliers. Proactiveness which comes from meticulous planning and preparedness was demonstrated by some of the companies and their corporate leadership.
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In many of the companies, decisions were made in terms of slashing of manpower either through furloughs or termination, realignment, restricting, reduction in salaries, increasing workload, remote working, etc. One of the retail chains announced that the top 1000 employees will not be paid any salary for three months and the rest will take a pay cut of anywhere between 30% to 70% depending on their criticality and position in the organisation.
Another organisation, decided that all the frontline staff were not required due to the lock down and retained only 20%. Even this 20% had to take a 70% pay cut while the support staff and back end staff were forced to take a pay cut of minimum 30% depending on their position and job role.
The Corporate Management came up with different decisions on a weekly basis as the situation became worse worldwide in April and May 2020. Some of the earlier decisions were reversed and many of the decisions over the last few weeks indicated negative results.
A leader’s primary responsibility is to motivate the employees and encourage them to stay safe and resilient. Any unpreparedness and cluelessness from the leader’s side creates a panic situation for others. As leaders, they must lead by example. During the C19 pandemic, some of them have shown a lack of maturity, resilience, foresight, and wisdom which has exposed the Corporate Leadership. There are a few lessons that the Corporate Leaders have to learn from this experience, and this would be a great learning for the next generation of leaders.
The Pandemic led to Economic Crisis all over the world wiping out a few trillion dollars from the Global Economy. The economic crisis will keep repeating at different points of time in the future due to various reasons and the Corporate Leaders should be ready to face those crises as and when they unfold.
Digital Transformation was the buzz word for the last few years in many corporate entities, which has now became a sudden need of the hour. The transformation had to take place urgently due to the C19 Pandemic. Cash Flow Management which has been ignored by some of the companies, due to comfortable liquidity position in the past, became the most critical aspect. Business Process Re-engineering has become a crucial aspect that needs to be addressed.
Some businesses have seized the opportunity and capitalised on the situation very nicely. Delivery company, pharma companies, PPE producers to name a few are the ones who took this opportunity and flourished well.
In summary, while there were sporadic instances of dynamic leadership and eventual learning, others were unable to handle the crises efficiently. Leaders must be well prepared in advance to any sudden crisis and be able to manage continuity other than the times the business runs as usual.
The road to recovery will be easy and smooth if the Corporate Leadership can quickly swing into action by learning from past actions. Leadership is all about learning and when the learnings are immediately put into practice, leadership will flourish. A successful leader responds to the current crisis, manages continuity, and emerges stronger for the “next normal”. With the right approach, this crisis can become an opportunity to move forward and create a more positive impact to the business.