It has been over a year, but the pandemic is far from the end. While vaccination efforts in the United States and many developed nations have already started, cases around the globe have been rising in recent weeks.
This only means that small businesses will have to hold out longer until they can recover their losses.
As the economy shrank because of the pandemic and all the restrictions made to control it, businesses of all kinds have been suffering. Hundreds of thousands of businesses have already filed for bankruptcy and closed their doors permanently.
In most cases, the sudden loss of income was a death sentence. However, for others, poor leadership was partly to blame. COVID-19 was truly a test of leadership for many entrepreneurs. The few establishments that managed to survive and even succeed in the chaos of the past year have decisive and ingenious owners at the helm.
The pandemic has been both a challenge and an opportunity to learn for business leaders.
The Importance of Empathy
Leadership requires empathy. At the end of the day, no business can function without the hard work and generosity of other people.
COVID-19 saw a lot of tragedy, including loss of livelihood. Millions of Americans were laid off in 2020 because of the lockdowns and recession. Those who still had jobs had to work from home, forced to juggle their professional responsibilities with childcare and household chores. In addition, people were experiencing stress, anxiety, and depression because of the global crisis.
It was tough for everyone, and the mark of a good leader is the ability to set aside financial goals and empathize. A good leader will try to understand what the rest of the team is going through. They are sensitive to the needs of the people around them. They allow flexibility, especially in sign-ins and sign-outs, and encourage workers to take paid days off to unwind or care for their loved ones.
But, generosity should be extended to people outside of your professional circles. The public has seen empathy from certain businesses in the past year. A mosquito control service continues to keep their community safe and healthy by offering their expertise for free. When there was a shortage of personal protective equipment, fashion designers and brands instructed their staff to create masks and surgical gowns for healthcare workers caring for patients with COVID-19. Many restaurants also used their pantries to feed homeless people. These are all great examples of empathy in the world of business.
Resiliency During Difficult Times
Leadership is not just measured by how ideas and decisions drive success and growth during peaceful times. It is also tested during crises. A good leader can steer the business toward survival when sales and profits are on a downward spiral.
The establishments that remained up float during the past year have shown evidence that they can withstand any challenge. Resilience will ensure the continued existence of the business in the future, whether it is a good year or the circumstances are not favorable.
The Ability to Adapt Quickly is Crucial
A crisis destroys normal routines and processes. It happened in the past year when border closures and infections led to disruptions in the supply chain and shortages of goods.
The ability to adapt is a saving grace for a situation like the past year. It will be impossible to continue going with old routines and processes. The old practices that worked during a peaceful time will no longer be applicable when the circumstances are unstable and unpredictable.
A leader should be able to assess the situation as they happen and formulate a plan of action. They must be able to create new routines and processes in order to continue operations despite the crisis.
Leaders should be able to effectively manage change, a trait that not a lot of people have but can learn. COVID-19 is the opportunity to become the type of leader who is adaptable to sudden and major changes.
The pandemic should not dissuade business leaders because employees look to their bosses for strength during times of crisis. A leader should inspire and encourage people to continue doing their best despite the situation, but they should also show empathy for workers whose mental health and lifestyle are also affected by the terrible circumstances. Moreover, the pandemic should grant leaders skills to overcome similar crises in the future. They should learn resilience and adaptability to survive any challenges that may come their way.
COVID-19 will unlikely be the last pandemic that the world will face, nor the last crisis that will occur within this lifetime. Everyone better be prepared to survive the next crises.