Leadership in a Pandemic Reality, Part Three: Leading with Action


Read Part One Leading with Self and Part Two Leading with Vision of this series on leadership.

As a leader, you may be the chief decision-maker for certain areas of responsibility in your organization. Some of us make decisions quickly, moving forward when we find an acceptable course of action – what some call “satisficing.” Others take longer to carefully weigh and measure options so they can reach what they consider the optimal, single best answer. They call this “maximizing.”

Formal decision-making theory explores the different characteristics of decision-making. Understanding what type of decision-maker you are and whether your type changes under different circumstances can help you lead more confidently.

In most situations, unless it’s a matter of life or death, multiple options exist. For example, when the impact of COVID-19 was first being felt, leaders at many levels were briefly on pause, waiting to better understand the severity and duration of the pandemic. This showed that most organizations have a certain momentum of their own. But, as days and weeks passed, we found that momentum was not sustainable for long periods of time, especially when external factors are changing the outcomes for the organization. Eventually, decisions have to be made, and with every decision, there are impacts or ripple effects.

Take a moment to reflect on how a decision you made led to ripple effects. Which were positive ripple effects, and which were negative? What might you have done differently to minimize the negative impacts and maximize the positive ones?

Over the last several months, we have all had to define new courses of action, namely figuring out how to collaborate, supervise and work virtually. For some, the drastic change and persistent ambiguity have been paralyzing. If this is the case for you or your employees, define actions you can accomplish and that give you some sense of control. Communicate those actions to your teams. Communication is critical to inform, calm and support. Remember that, in the absence of well-managed communications, people create the narrative. This often promotes inaccurate information and rarely maintains calm.

This is also a good time for leaders to collaborate with peers who can process the situation and keep their complementary areas of responsibility moving forward. As a leader, the time you put into syncing up with adjacent areas can pay dividends in sustained synergy and integrated outcomes.

Lean on your teams to define achievable plans, and then hold your teams accountable. Delegation is hard, but essential. We can’t do everything ourselves, and delegation is a key responsibility in developing others. Have you pulled tasks or activities back in when you should have delegated and encouraged others to step up? What kept you from delegating effectively?

Allow your teams to do their jobs and ensure everyone does what they say they will do, especially you. Don’t overcommit. Define course(s) of action that can be completed in small steps. Think about commitments you have recently made. Rate yourself on your level of accomplishment. If actions were left undone, why? What can you do to ensure actions are completed, not moved on your next “to do” list?

As you delegate and monitor team progress, keep in mind these are challenging times for us all. Be cautious not to lean too heavily on those who may appear to have fewer responsibilities. Those who are quarantining alone, for example, may not have children to homeschool or a spouse to consider, but they are processing different aspects of the pandemic. You may observe unusual or different behaviors in your team members, and you may need to make adjustments for the sake of well-being. Much of this kind of leadership will be a function of your relationships, which we will talk about in Part Four: Leading with Relationships.

ISG helps leaders and their teams manage the risk associated with the crucial “people side” of change. The science of organizational change management – or OCM – can dramatically reduce the amount of time it takes for your workforce to rebound and for your company to realize the benefits of a project.

Read Part One Leading with Self and Part Two Leading with Vision of this series on leadership.

This blog series comes from ISG Women in Digital, a community dedicated to connecting, educating, empowering and recognizing women as they navigate the changing world and make the most of their digital future.