Brigette Hyacinth shares her thoughts about Responsible Leadership during the Corona crisis. Brigette is leadership expert, author and founder of the MBA Caribbean Organisation. At the 21st World Business Dialogue conference in 2018, she talked about her approach to shape better leaders.
In the article, Brigette explains why reactionary management and layoffs during Corona are NOT strategic leadership and how the treatment of employers towards their people during this crisis is going to impact their brand in the future.
Responsible Leadership in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to sweeping changes and disruptions in nearly every aspect of our daily life. Tough times reveal our true colors. I am saddened to see so many companies quick to terminate employees—companies making profits, who don’t have to terminate staff and still choose to do so. Why not work together to find solutions to keep staff on hand for this temporary situation —going to a 3-day work week, cutting salary by x%, management taking a salary reduction, etc. Give the employee the choice to stay at a reduction, or not.
Some leaders have been extraordinary. There are chief executives across industries who are cutting their pay—even to zero—as part of their strategy to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus crisis. Texas Roadhouse CEO Kent Taylor is giving up his pay for the rest of the year, (March 18, 2020, to Jan. 7, 2021) to help struggling employees amid the pandemic. Why don’t many leaders think like this?
Reactionary management is not strategic leadership. If your crisis management strategy is just to throw people overboard when the going gets tough, you will be in for a rude awakening. Cost cutting by cutting your main pipeline may not be such a smart idea. You would be losing intellectual resources and at a bigger risk of not maintaining a competitive advantage. Layoffs are a short-term answer that harm a company’s long-term value. Research shows that organizations that layoff employees experience a:
- 20% decline in job performance from the remaining employees
- 36% decline in organizational commitment
- 41% decline in job satisfaction
- 31% increase in voluntary turnover the next year
Of course, it’s business and if a company is unprofitable there will be termination and layoffs, but how employers treat their people during this crisis, is going to impact their brand for years to come.
You get judged on how you treat people in difficult times. It’s easy to be good when times are good.
Show employees you genuinely care. Any effort a company is putting to keep their staff will go a long way in sustaining the culture and brand. Sadly, many leaders don’t care, nor do they wish to care because they think caring is detrimental to the bottom line these days. These rough times are a true test of a company’s corporate culture and values, especially those who say they “value people” or ” put people first”. As a leader everyone is looking to you. Do everything you can to fight for your employees and if you must let them go, make sure you use emotional intelligence and empathy during the termination process.
Great leaders don’t only focus on the bottom line. They look at the overall big picture. Leadership is about making a meaningful contribution. They are concerned about the future and how their decisions will impact it. Leaders are responsible for fulfilling their civic duty; the actions of an individual must benefit the whole of society. More than ever managers need to be considering the well-being of their employees and the people in our communities. Empathy is always important, but it is particularly vital during a crisis.
Leadership is a privilege to serve humanity. During this time many companies have taken the decision to transform their operations to sewing face masks, medical gowns or producing hand sanitizers to help hospitals deal with the shortages in personal protective equipment (PPE). Whilst others have been donating ventilators, and even essential supplies to help the less fortunate.
You may be a manager but above all, you are a human being. A good leader manages to balance a business mindset and being a human being, and knows how to emphasize one over the other. At some point being a decent human being has to outweigh just doing your job. We live in a time when empathy and intellect must meet. It is important to remember that we are in this together—think of others, reach out however you can, and remember to offer help even to those who may seem to be coping well. Be flexible and compassionate. In this COVID-19 pandemic we don’t need numbers-driven but human-centred leadership. We need leaders with a heart for people.