Pop-up leaders are helping companies withstand the coming crisis

The pandemic was a stressful learning curve for leaders in adaptability. And stressful experiences help cope with challenges later, says Murad Mithani of Rutgers School of Business-Camden. On the other hand, little can be learned from prosperity and prosperity.

Businesses have just had a stressful experience, says Veronica Hope Hailey of the University of Bath, referring to the two-year corona pandemic with all the shutdowns and disrupted logistics lines. During this period, leaders have developed resilience, she noted, based on interviews with top executives about their experiences in the corona years.

Confidence without knowing what the future will bring

For example, during the pandemic, managers have learned how to gain employee trust without knowing what the future holds. During the pandemic, there was no hard data to answer organizational challenges. As an alternative to management information, managers used values ​​as a guideline for how they should act. These values ​​were, for example, about the importance of transparency and teleworking.

The appearance of the pop-up manager

This is how the pop-up leader was born, as Hope Hailey describes it: a leader who improvises to meet the challenges of the pandemic. This pop-up leader is not formed in many years of training, but by finding solutions to acute problems for which no scripts exist. These opportunity leaders fill the gaps caused by lack of knowledge and experience.

“When the coronavirus hit, top executives drew on their experiences from other stressful periods,” Hope Hailey said. “For example, the terrorist attacks on September 11, the financial crisis in 2008 or their preparations for Brexit. They did not need leaders with experience in pandemics. ”

A crisis should not last too long

One of the lessons from the pandemic is the importance of close cooperation and communication with customers, suppliers, employees, trade unions and investors. Sticking to and applying this lesson can also guide companies through the impending crisis. “Keep moving, it gives you extra energy, you stay sharp and agile,” Brad Greve, CFO of BAE Systems, told the Financial Times. “It also involves risks, but in these circumstances they are always there, no matter what you do. But by continuing to move, you are in a better position to deal with different risks. ”

But improvisation management also has drawbacks, so the warnings sound. If a crisis continues, leadership will be exhausted. In addition, quick fixes are not very sustainable. To continue the parallel with the pandemic: does work from home mask underperformance? How sustainable is a business purpose in times of crisis? Many black-and-white solutions in the corona era turned out to be primarily gray, says Hope Hailey. An important lesson: a crisis should not last too long.

Leadership and keeping an eye on the human dimension

The corona pandemic seemed like a magnifying glass to many things: things that we had all sensed for a long time suddenly became very apparent. Internist and Professor of Medicine Marcel Levi was CEO of University College London Hospitals (UCLH), where he headed nine hospitals in London during the corona crisis. During HR Day 2022, he explains what experiences the healthcare system has learned during that time. And how it also applies to other sectors. Suddenly we were able to implement huge changes at lightning speed: is not that a good recipe for the future? It also suddenly became much clearer what effective leadership means. And how not to lose sight of the human dimension. What lessons can we learn after 2.5 years of the corona pandemic: from the strength of ‘professionals at the forefront’ to the need to play more total football in our work instead of the usual cattenaccio.

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