For organizations in every industry, COVID-19 is a solemn reminder that “business as usual” is a fragile notion. The global pandemic is leaving an indelible mark on a generation of business leaders called to make bold financial and operational moves in the face of turbulent market conditions that evolve rapidly within a matter of hours – even minutes.
On paper, today’s headwinds show up on balance sheets and liquidity statements. In practice, these headwinds, which appear to be purely financial and operational in nature, represent something much more personal. In past crises, such as the 2008 financial crisis, quantifiable models could paint an objective picture of future outcomes. This time around, COVID-19 is primarily a people challenge. As leaders face immediate decisions about cost takeout, they must show empathy for employees and their constituencies, while engaging and inspiring those employees to progress courageously in the workplace. They must intentionally cultivate, and actively manage, cultures of resilience that thrive and gain momentum amidst disruption. They must model a progress-over-perfection mindset that invites employees to challenge entrenched norms, absent fear of failure. At the same time, these leaders must maintain a careful balancing act, keeping a constant eye on mitigating risk to the balance sheet.