“Leadership is a contact sport", Marshall Goldsmith, the world-renowned business educator and coach quoted. This is at the core of any successful and inspiring leader, or so we thought, until now. The on-going COVID Pandemic has brought in a lot of drastic changes not only the way we live but also how we work. With social distancing becoming the norm and virtual becoming the real, let’s talk about how “contact” can become more virtual.
The immediate questions that come to mind are,
“Is Remote Leadership even possible?”
“How do we keep doing what we are doing effectively?”
“Can we grow, learn and come out better human beings at the end of this?”
And the biggest of all, do the fundamental principles of leadership change in the new era?
Well, remote leadership is not a new concept. The defence forces have always been exemplary examples of Remote leadership. Troops are deployed across regions during wars/battles, and their commanding officers are placed strategically at remote locations and they have to not just communicate and take decisions often in do or die situations with minimal communication systems – they have to keep their forces together, motivated and abreast with the plan of action with no luxuries like Zoom, Fuze, Teams, Facebook, Instagram, and the likes.
They boast of the most formidable and exceptional examples of leadership and have shown how to succeed and lead from the front with no or minimal “contact”.
If we think about it, remote or not, the core leadership principles don’t change as much. In fact, they become more relevant during tough times, such as the current lockdown.
Here are a few of these core principles that make us inspiring leaders irrespective of the scenario
‘Been there done that’, remains a respectable position to have in order to solve problems, however, understanding the existing state, evaluating the current scenario, comparing with close look-alikes and then coming up with a strategy is the need of the hour. Past experiences should be used only as a reference point to possibilities – History doesn’t exactly repeat itself but does rhyme, as there is always an additional element which may add to the complexity or which may be a key to the solution. Hence being relevant with a fresh perspective to a solution is imperative.
Intelligence is not age or experience bound
Good ideas and strategies aren’t necessarily dependent on age or experience. Solutions need varied perspectives, way-aheads and some out-of-the box thinkers. Involve whoever you can and give them the freedom to open up without the fear of failure. Idea jams help tap into dormant sources in order to get as much information as possible and to truly arrive at a solution.
Respect people. Have Empathy
People always remember how they felt even if they don’t remember the exact details of a situation. It is not what you say, but it is how you make them feel which makes a difference. Know your people – a big part of respect comes from understanding and knowing each one - their skills, strengths, weaknesses, what drives them and so on. Let them not be just a number or a “resource” you need for a job.
Measure and evaluate what you are saying and the impact it might have. Always acknowledge a communication, especially in such testing times. Conference calls and phone calls being the norm - here are some important pointers:
Share your vision. Give Clarity
Everyone wants to know what the big picture is. Share it with them, take inputs and implement if suitable. Get their buy-in; make them feel they are a part of it. Prepare them for the long haul and support them with resources along the way. Provide a structure and define roles with accountability and a clear success criterion for in between shorter wins too, tying them to the success of your larger goal.
Give them a purpose, ownership, freedom
What drives people the most is the feeling that they are making a difference - to know what they do has an impact on the program, organization and society in general - this is the ideal way to retain your best people as it provides ultimate job satisfaction.
Be Honest, Trust them
It is inarguably the key foundation to a successful leadership and growth of the organization. It has defined in the past, is defining and will continue to define your success. Take steps to instil the feeling of safety and security in your people through your actions and policies. A lot of things fall into place when communication is two-way and flows honestly. People are empowered via trust, as they then take accountability for their actions that fit into the frameworks that you have built for the success of the organization.
The glory is not in never failing but in rising every time you fail!
The ability to learn from failures and move ahead is what enables a person to learn. Promote the culture of regular open feedback. Be open to criticism. Walk the talk and empower your team to surge ahead by overcoming difficulties. At the same time when the need arises take corrective action, both swift and stern based on clear data and evidence.
As I end this post, I want to bring to light some changes that I have observed and hope will remain that way permanently. I have noticed that everyone is more conscious of their actions, more open to listening, more available to people, and have realized what is really important in their lives. There is also a heightened sense of responsibility and patience all around. Let’s carry these forward even after this calamity is over and strive to have a more meaningful and purposeful life.
Please stay safe and may the force be with all of us!