News

Coronavirus and leadership qualities

What do the coronavirus and its impact mean for the requirements that apply to good leadership? What should the manager who steers a company into a successful future be like? I believe this is one place that managers can learn something from politics. When the coronavirus crisis hit, the German federal government took swift and effective action, earning the approval of broad sections of the population. A closer analysis shows at least three factors worthy of imitation.

Coronavirus and Business

First: clear guidelines. When the virologists made the politicians aware of just how serious the situation was, elected officials drew tough conclusions. Almost completely shutting down nearly the entire country was terrible, but necessary. Social distancing and hygiene rules were defined in detail and communicated clearly. After all, any hesitation would have cost lives – Italy and the U.S. were prime examples there. Clear guidance is also part of the leadership’s job at a business. Employees want and need to know where things are going, and they want and need to be met where they are and brought along on the journey.

Second: explain and communicate. Germany’s political leaders, and the chancellor first and foremost, have been straightforward in communicating to the public why there was no alternative to all these unpleasant steps for a while. Managers can learn from this. Leaders need to recognize that always, but most especially in times of crisis, there’s no such thing as too much communication. We shouldn’t be afraid of repetition; the message has to get out to everyone, everywhere. The post-corona manager is above all a manager who communicates, someone who speaks a language that everyone understands.

Third: standing up for values. Policymakers have set life and health above any and all economic interests. That was right and brave. This was viewed differently in places like Brazil and the U.S., with devastating consequences. I think that managers in Germany must also become more value-oriented. They don’t have to be Germans, but they must know and embrace traditional German values such as honesty, decency and a solid work ethic. For example, it is not a good idea for financially strong companies not to pay rent in times of crisis. The model of the honorable merchant is not outdated. Knowing values and making them the guide in one’s own actions – that’s important, not just when dealing with external parties, but also when considering a company’s internal structures. Treating employees fairly, paying them fairly, practicing good corporate citizenship and making sure the company plays by the rules are all part of what managers have to do. Not only in the post-corona times. But especially then.

Peter Lückemeier is a journalist, nonfiction author and ghostwriter. He was the local head of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung from 1990 to 2016 and also writes for Vision D, the Deininger magazine for decision makers.

Jun 8, 2020