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Building leadership resilience

The current crisis is quickly overtaking any recent epidemic that we have experienced in the past, and in addition to the human impact, it’s causing a significant economic damage. Naturally, this is causing a great deal of uncertainty and anxiety, and leaders globally are rightly concerned about their businesses and employees.

Every business, industry and region is different and there is no ‘one size fits all’ leadership solution to the current situation, but the one skill that can be essential to manage and respond to the crisis is resilience. Resilient leaders who are empathetic and genuine, and able to walk in their team’s and customer’s shoes are those who lead not just with their heads, but also with their hearts.

Leading with the heart and the head

Resilience means taking decisive action based on incomplete information and being transparent about current realities, whilst also presenting a positive outlook on the future to motivate and inspire others to keep going.

Many will remember Winston Churchill encouraging British people to keep the faith: “We shall not fail or falter; we shall not weaken or tire. Neither the sudden shock of battle, nor the long-drawn trials of vigilance and exertion will wear us down. Give us the tools, and we will finish the job.”

The key priority for any leader should be to protect the health and safety of employees, followed by their economic wellbeing. According to Deloitte’s survey of human capital policies and practices in China, at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in January 2020, as a priority the businesses who took part in the survey have focused on providing their employees with flexible and remote work options. For those where remote working wasn’t an option, focus has been on more effective physical protection in the form of a safer work environment and personal protective equipment. Addressing employees’ mental health has been equally important.

Adapting to changing customer behaviour

The recent change has been quick and wide and had a great impact on customer behaviours. Many customers have reverted to basic needs like safety and health – but it’s not just about what they are purchasing, but also how they communicate. Resilient leaders need to adapt their tone and nature of the communication and be sensitive to the shifting customer experience during the ongoing crisis.

Changes like offering ‘no contact’ deliveries, turning restaurants into mini supermarkets selling ready meals or creating more online offerings can make a great difference to those who are self-isolating or practicing social distancing.

Even during a crisis, it’s important to focus on the bigger picture – the innovation and new business models that are likely to emerge as people and businesses adapt. With the right approach, the current crisis can turn into an opportunity to move forward, build resilience and positive social impact. The world will most likely not be the same when we come out on the other side, but it will certainly be more resilient.

During these uncertain times, it is the job of the leaders to provide both, honesty and credible hope that collectively with their teams they can face whatever the next day brings – by being determined, kind and resilient.

At Acumen we help leaders to solve real life challenges through our extensive menu of courses, workshops and coaching programmes. For more information, contact

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