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Leadership in the Age of Coronavirus: Lead Through the Stress!


Managing stress is the most important action a leader can take amid the coronavirus outbreak.  If you own a business, you are under stress. If you run a business you are under stress.  Stress from too much demand or stress from disappearing revenue is the reality we face now.  Business leaders are worried about today and worried about next week or next month.  Short-term there is nothing we can do that will eliminate worry and fear that accompanies the unknown.  However, there are actions we can control as leaders of people.

You are defined by your response to adversity.  Your team is watching and taking mental queues from your action.  You are under the microscope right now.  Every leadership book you have read, every class you have taken, every failure you have learned from prepared you for this moment.  Your people need you to lead now more than ever.  It is the job.  It is not a science.  You must make quick decisions with imperfect information.  You are the one person everyone else is looking at to make sense of this crisis.

Today is what you have prepared for as a leader.  Today will define you in the eyes of your people.  The temptation to withdraw and hunker down is real but you cannot, must not take this course of action.  Too much is on the line.  Following are ten actions you will take to lead your team and be proactive:

Own the role of a leader in your organization. Look in the mirror and tell yourself, I got this.  Positive self-talk is not just psychological banter. It literally changes the chemistry in our brains.  No matter what happens, you own the ability to respond to your people.

Take care of your health first. You must protect yourself in order to lead your team.  Get exercise and eat properly.  Get rest in order to maintain your immunity and strength.  Do not allow yourself to be exposed too unnecessarily.

Be realistic but stay positive. Now is not the time to downplay reality.  You are the barometer for the team.  They will act according to your example.  Optimism is contagious.  So is fear-mongering.  Prevent negativity on your team and address it immediately.  Make sure every subordinate leader understands this and acts accordingly.  NO wiggle room here.  Be emphatic about the positive messaging from your team.

Avoid reading business books for the time being. Fundamentals are different and reading information that does not apply to the current situation will only add to your stress.  Opt for fiction or books that entertain.  The distraction will be pleasant.

Communicate with your team daily. Develop and share talking points that fill the narrative void with something positive.  Do not allow negativity to be the only guest in the “thoughtmosphere”.  This reassurance is essential for those we influence.

Take long-term action that will create an advantage during recovery. This will end soon, and we must be prepared for recovery.  Avoid knee-jerk actions that can poison your team permanently.  As leaders, you must be there for your people if you want them to be there when times are good.  They will remember how you made them feel long into the future.

Take advantage of cheap capital now. Low-interest loans can help you bridge a temporary decline in revenue. 

Invest in your team’s knowledge. There are many e-learning opportunities that you can use to improve your team for recovery.  Online workshops and self-paced distance learning are positive ways to let your people know you are preparing for the rise.

Remind your team not to panic buy. Inform them that our supply chains are going to be stretched and you need them to get what they need but do not add additional strain.  This hurts everyone in the long-run.

Encourage your team to enjoy time with family. Remind them this is a time to be a leader at home.  Encourage them to share your message with the family.  You may be the primary source of positivity in their lives.

Your capacity to lead is most important during difficult times.  You are in the big chair for a reason.  It is time to step it up and earn your paycheck.  Responsibility is defined as your ability to respond.  Take a deep breath and get it done.  We believe in you.