As we approach springtime of 2024, it is becoming more apparent that the impact of COVID-19 continues to be lessening.  Retail locations are operating as before, shopping malls were crowded during the recent holiday season, and a majority of people are working in their offices – at least for many days.  However, since this pandemic affected people around the world, Gauray Gupta – in U.S. News and World Report — examined differences in how leaders in various countries reacted to this unexpected crisis.

For example, as COVID-19 infection rates decreased in many countries – such as the U.S. — they continued to be quite high in countries such as India, Turkey, Brazil, and Mexico.  Why the difference?  Although the actions of the political leaders in these countries varied, Gupta identified several similarities.  Specifically, many of these country’s leaders had cultivated an image of being “strong, confident, and nearly infallible”.  In fact, the traits of “confidence and decisiveness” were emphasized above all other traits and capabilities among these leaders.

Unfortunately, as Gupta noted, this leadership approach is particularly harmful in situations that are highly uncertain, unpredictable, and/or difficult to control.  And the lack of transparency and false confidence that accompanies these leaders often results in serious negative consequences.  Therefore, in today’s continually changing and uncertain world, leaders must understand that displaying a level of humility is more crucial than ever.  Importantly, this will allow for quickly changing course, along with admitting mistakes and valuing advice from others – especially from other experts.

In fact, as uncertainty increases, the number of “unknowns” grows, and the pace of change accelerates, leaders must encourage input from more persons and ensure that more colleagues become involved in attempting to address the issues/problems.  Otherwise, the response(s) to these unexpected emergencies/situations, are very likely to be too slow and/or inadequate.  As Gupta noted, a great example of this type of situation in the business world was Kodak. As cameras began to utilize digital technology, competitors leapfrogged Kodak due to its resistance to moving away from film and into this newer technology.

Succeeding in today’s global business world requires cultivating decentralized information and decision-making channels.  All employees – from front-line workers to senior executives – must be empowered to act when facing a new and/or unfamiliar challenge.  In fact, delegating control enables senior leadership to respond more effectively to the fast-evolving situations that businesses face today.  Consider the video rental chain Blockbuster.  As they continued to “double down” on their business model of “renting videos”, competitors provided other options such as “streaming movies, sporting events, shows, etc.”  This resistance led to the demise of Blockbuster.

Therefore, in today’s world, leaders must understand that they cannot consistently recognize all important information, along with potential future trends. Instead, that information must come from all areas of the organization. Connecting to all employees, along with key partners, vendors, etc., is essential to long-term success in an unpredictable and ever-changing world.  Operating in a manner that was successful 10 – or even 5 – years ago will most likely lead to failure.  Therefore, senior leaders must remain connected to people at all levels of their organization.

It is generally most beneficial to establish a strong partnership with employees who consistently interact with customers.  Cultivating a “partnership” with vendors – not simply a purchasing relationship – is also key.  Most importantly, today’s senior leaders do not need to have all the answers to be successful.  Rather, being honest about what they do know and what is still unknown engenders trust among all employees and can enable an “agile response” to current – and potential future – challenges.

As new and/or different situations and challenges accelerate, leaders must also evolve.  Specifically, all senior leaders must go beyond their “formal authority” and emphasize their ability – and willingness – to adapt, collaborate, and foster inclusive efforts among all members of their organization – including among all of their supervisors and managers.  In fact, in today’s ever-changing world, utilizing the knowledge and capabilities of all employees is essential to long-term success.

For over 25 years, E.A.S.I.-Consult® has been helping companies identify – and develop – the most successful leaders for their organization.  As a leading company in researching and identifying key capabilities necessary for any situations – including unpredictable leadership challenges – we assist organizations reach their full potential.

Joseph Gier, Ph.D. is Vice President – Consulting Services at E.A.S.I-Consult and is a licensed Psychologist. E.A.S.I-Consult works with Fortune 500 companies, government agencies, and mid-sized organizations to provide customized Talent Management solutions. Utilizing scientific approaches, E.A.S.I.-Consult provides superior results for a wide variety of businesses.  Our specialties include leadership and leadership potential assessment, online employment assessment, customized skills assessment, competency modeling, leadership development, executive coaching, 360-degree feedback, online structured interviews, and EEO hiring compliance. To learn more about E.A.S.I.-Consult, visit www.easiconsult.com, email ContactUs@easiconsult.com, or call 800.922.EASI.