At the time of writing, wearing a mask in shops in England has become compulsory again.

How long for? Who knows.

What effect will this have on the footfall in those shops? Who knows.

Amazingly, because such things have become commonplace over the past two years, there has been barely a whisper in response from the businesses who will be affected.

Aside, perhaps, from the World War II years, there has never been a more unpredictable time to be a leader in the business world. From CEOs of multinationals to managers of small departments, the global pandemic has resulted in many leaders tearing up their carefully crafted plans and rewriting them overnight.

Dealing with this level of uncertainty is scary stuff. Many businesses – large and small – have fallen. Many have soared. Leadership will have made a significant contribution either way.

COVID-19 has not finished with businesses yet. There will be more unexpected effects and pivots to come, along with more casualties and more success stories. Here are five short tips to help you survive and thrive as a leader:

1. Stay alive

An oldie but a goodie. It is very tempting during a pandemic for leaders to double down and work ridiculous hours – to make up for that staff member that had to be let go, maybe, or to try to get that extra order because sales are down this month.

If it doesn’t kill you, at the very least lack of adequate R & R will result in tired decisions, irritability, etc. In short, nothing conducive to good leadership.

2. Learn as much as you can about situational leadership

Here at Impellus, as anyone who has taken our Leadership Skills Development course will know, we are big fans of the situational leadership model, first introduced as a concept by Hersey and Blanchard back in 1969.

This model takes into account employees’ competence and commitment and is a highly effective approach that has been tried and tested over decades.

Many experts agree that it is invaluable in unpredictable times, largely due to the speed and scale of change that often needs to happen within organisations.

3. Don’t be the smartest ass in the room

This is an extension of the above two points really. As a leader, understand that you don’t have to know more than everyone about every topic in your workplace to be a good leader.

Instead, make it your place to learn about, respect and tap into the experience and knowledge of your team. If someone already has a mental mine of nuggets that can only be gained from years of experience at the coalface, it would be the very definition of insanity to pick up a shovel yourself, especially during periods of uncertainty and change, when time is a luxury.

Poor leadership? You bet.

4. Put talk before tools

Change will almost certainly be necessary during a pandemic. However, as the Agile Manifesto recognises, individuals and interactions should come before processes and tools.

I could list dozens of project tools that will help greatly with change management. At the end of the day, though, it is whether your people commit to the journey and the changes ahead or not that will ultimately determine whether the desired outcome is achieved.

5. Understand that you are never the finished product

Continuous improvement is the key. Don’t be afraid to ask other people what you do well/less well with regards to your leadership behaviours, and tweak if necessary. Yes, especially during a pandemic.

John F. Kennedy once said: “The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word crisis – one brush stroke stands for danger; the other for opportunity.” Apparently this is not an entirely accurate translation, but I like the sentiment. Don’t miss this opportunity to become a better leader.


Written by Darren Ward – Management & Leadership Assessor