Post-Coronavirus leadership: 5 answers for the new time

Daniel Colombo, one of the most prestigious coaches in Latin America, shares with us a valuable report where he reveals how to be more efficient in the midst of the pandemic

The Covid-19 pandemic exposes humanity to an almost total reformulation in all sectors. Everything known is already history, and from the new normality, companies, organizations, governments and people are involved in a radical transformation of models and procedures that will take some years to implement.
It is a planetary cultural change, where we will inevitably have to adapt to new conditions and ways of acting to adapt to new contexts.
The leadership of people and teams is an essential part of this different and still unknown time.
Working with different organizations in various countries, I have observed increasing difficulty in adapting leadership roles to current needs. It seems that the leaders who thought they were prepared to face “everything” were not so ready, and that is why there have been gaps and adaptive difficulties so that they can carry out their activity.
It is understandable that it is not possible to ask for performance and results that were usual months ago in a crisis context, where the emotional component is also disrupted. Although it is necessary to know that the role of the leader includes being a good storm pilot.
In this circumstance leaders are retreating, who are afraid, who do not know how to proceed, who avoid exercising their autonomy when deciding.

And this leads us to reflect on some essential aspects of post-coronavirus leadership.

  • Is a new type of leadership emerging?

If we take a quick look, in times of crisis different types of leadership appear: some companies and organizations feel that they can bring their teams together (if they have not done so before) and that joining forces allows for a collaborative style to carry on the best which can.

The verticalist model is being deprecated; Fundamentally they continue to be applied by traditional companies that in some way have remained stagnant in the past; Even successful merchants in other eras can see their businesses in jeopardy today if they do not adapt to the dynamics of the new times.

Despite this, in a VICA environment (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) sometimes centralized decision making is one of the forms of rapid management; keeping the helm safe and following the development of the crisis day by day and how it affects each sector is essential.

The strongest leaders, with speed in decision-making even in the midst of uncertainty and without having all the elements of analysis, stand out from those who are more analytical who spend too much time on “paralysis by analysis”.

In moments of uncertainty, a mix of leadership styles is required; and the so-called "exponential leadership" is emerging with more force - since it is not new - where organizations recreate themselves in new versions, innovative and completely different from what they have done before: it is these that will last with greater probability of success in what we call “new normality”.

  • What would be a more appropriate leadership style for times of crisis?

The invitation is to develop an integrative model between a strong leader who knows how to make decisions, who is confident and confident, with realistic optimism (that is, to think that the best can happen and, in turn, be down to earth) and he who knows how to contain, accompany, listen and be close to people.

Businesses for many years have not basically been about products or selling and collecting, but rather managing people: the external client, the internal client, and each of the people who make up the environments in which they operate. In this confluence of styles and professional competences is the leader who is lacking today and who is making a difference.

In a quick synthesis, conscious and exponential leadership emerge as the two most conducive and congruent styles for going through a crisis of this magnitude. Both have in common putting the human being before the resulting economic interests of the organizations, without neglecting them; and they focus on the need for a close leader capable of making decisions based on large volumes of data, without losing consciousness of the impact of those choices, and of the direct and indirect consequences in a multi-dimensional way: people, finances, the environment , the environment, health and purpose.

  • How to develop greater confidence in VICA environments?

Trust, like empathy, are two essential values ​​in any type of leadership; and more in times of crisis of any time.

Trust is a strategic value, since certainties must be transmitted, even in the bad news that must be communicated. Empathy, in turn, connects, creates bridges and generates new realities. The combination of both creates a virtuous effect beyond the unpleasant and unavoidable news that must be given through decisions that, in another context, perhaps were not going to be made.

We know that this Covid-19 crisis is going to be very long and emotionally exhausting; the companies' economic-financial “boxes” are going to be stressed for a long time; and possibly millions of jobs are lost worldwide, including our country. Governments and companies, intermediate organizations and all social actors are responsible for working today to prepare these people for the new skills of the future.

There are tasks that the future of automated work is going to replace; And with the digital acceleration that has occurred as a result of the pandemic, that will come much faster.

Lateral thinking, soft skills over technical skills, have a role today never seen before.

Another relevant aspect is that people are possibly not going to return to work as before: that is, they are going to stay in telework format forever. And this is already being a new era in working conditions where all sectors must agree on the new rules.

I work with companies from 18 countries, where they are already redesigning offices, shrinking spaces in half and advising their workers that the return to post-pandemic management will be, forever, more than 90% remotely (there will be some very specific face-to-face instances ). This completely changes the working environment. That is why empathy is fundamental, and also the coefficient of adaptability to changes, which became the most required component in any job position. He who does not adapt, dies. It is hard, although it is so.

  • How to take advantage of virtual meetings as a form of empathy and connection with teams?

Work meetings are meeting points, and it is essential to hold them. Although the management in virtual format of these meetings is different from face-to-face.

In Latin America, up to 40% of time is lost in unproductive meetings. This leads us to think that the obsolete models of endless meetings, without a defined agenda and guests who do not know why they are there, should give rise to other more agile formats, which allow solving strategic issues in no more than 15 or 20 minutes.

In the companies I work with there are different types of meetings that we have developed according to each organizational culture. They are classified, have a stipulated duration, and also consider emergencies that may happen.

For example, on routine or follow-up topics a meeting should not last more than 30 minutes. In a distance format, this is a time that defies attention, because online attention changes approximately every 3 minutes: that is, whoever leads needs to stimulate, mobilize participants, and generate psychological environments of trust so that people feel that they participate and that they are productive.

Yes to monitoring, no to monitoring
Yes or yes it is essential to keep meetings short and productive. The fact that people are connected and not in person should not lead to the boss or leader exceeding their levels of control. On the worker's side, it is the same: agile communication, showing their achievements and progress and delivering work on time is essential so that the link is not suffered and the best results are achieved.

Now, in the current emotional context that affects us all as a result of the coronavirus and its peculiarities (isolation, social distance, etc.), it is not possible to expect the same result from people, since they all go through it in different ways.

And therein lies the ability of the true leader: the masks are falling off. Today the most important thing is to be close to people, and, later, the result of work.

How can we act in paralyzed sectors or with very deep crises?

For those who run their own businesses and are paralyzed, it is a time of reformulation and reinvention: knowing what they are going to do once the crisis is over, because it is going to happen.

If they waste this time complaining, cutting communication with their clients, not prospecting sectors, avoiding internally reordering the operational aspects (administration, finances, stock, etc.), they lose. They lost that valuable time. And when they return to the market, their competitor (which they did) will be one year ahead of them.

If they waste this time complaining, cutting communication with their clients, not prospecting sectors, avoiding internally reordering the operational aspects (administration, finances, stock, etc.), they lose. They lost that valuable time. And when they return to the market, their competitor (which they did) will be one year ahead of them.

This is not a time for lukewarm people: it is a time to be generative, active, creative and innovative. There are hundreds of examples of paralyzed companies (for example, hotels and airlines) that have completely reinvented themselves during the crisis, and are resuming billing; on a smaller scale, although billing at last to cover its operating expenses

It is possible to achieve it: you just have to sharpen your wits and dare to do it. And the time is now.

It is in these instances that what we call “Resilience” arises in the individual, and that also extends to the collective and the business and business: “Organizational Resilience”. From a critical factor that affects us changes occur, alterations in what was usual. If we can adapt by sustaining the attitude of appropriate transformation, we come out strengthened and with deep learning.

For example, the fact of the digital acceleration of these times caused by the pandemic led many companies to suddenly grow in an area that perhaps had “had it in their plans”… only they had not: and they did it in time record. This means that when you want, you can. That is why the attitude factor, the revaluation of what we already have as an "inventory" of resources and tools to grow, the team we have and how much we take it into account, are decisive aspects to adopt an optimistic attitude towards the future.

At times like this, with uncertainty, it is advisable to focus on maintaining and sustaining the operation as best as possible with the resources available.

Pessimistic views of un optimistic leaders generate despair and mistrust in their teams.

So the challenges are to keep the operation running as smoothly as possible; Surround yourself with a small team to help lead the crisis (which will be an ultra-specialized and committed "crisis committee"), and with freedom of action to make all the decisions it deems appropriate.

It is also a challenge to maintain permanent and open communication with all collaborators, since on that frankness and honesty depends not only the reputation of the company, brands and products, but yours. That is to say: if they are going to continue trusting this leader, or they see him without conditions for that leadership.

As we can see, one comes out of crises with ingenuity, hard work and team spirit. And, faced with that, human improvement knows no limits: only those of its own mettle and determination.

Daniel Colombo is a Facilitator and Executive Coach Master specialized in senior management, professionals and teams; professional communicator; international lecturer; author of 30 books. LinkedIn Top Voice Latin America 2019. Member of the John Maxwell Team. Co-founder of


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