Practice Five for the leader is to prepare for a new normal. If the COVID-19 pandemic is teaching us anything, it is teaching us not to rush to get back to normal. That is a losing proposition. Due to the tragic events of Sept 11th in the United States, we learned to adjust to a new normal. This current crisis is forcing people to do likewise. Great leaders understand this and prepare for the adjustments.
In The Matrix (1999), Morpheus offers Neo two options. He had a choice between taking either a "red pill" that reveals an unpleasant truth or taking a "blue pill" to remain in blissful ignorance. In 2020, it appears as though some leaders took the red pill and began the arduous task of trying to defeat this invisible enemy, Coronavirus. However, the pressure from those who swallowed the blue pill became unbearable. These leaders who started off well succumbed to the pressure and made a critical error in claiming victory prematurely. They rushed to get back to normal.
Leaders can develop superb systems, establish proper protocols, and erect innovative infrastructures. All of these are important. But preparing and leading the people must be at the top of the list. People who recognize that the crisis is real AND trust their leaders will be more apt to sacrifice short-term solutions for long-term viability. If leaders do not communicate consistently and candidly, they may as well give their followers the blue pill. In a crisis, things can and may get worse. Sugarcoating the truth will neither help the leader nor the people make the necessary shifts to embrace the herculean tasks today for a sustainable future tomorrow. Crisis leaders must have the strength of conviction to stay the course for transformation to happen.
Intel had to contend with a crisis in the semiconductor industry in the mid-1980s. This was brought about by the dumping of cheaper Japanese products into the US market that threatened the competitiveness and life of the company. The leaders of the corporation chose to prepare for a new normal by reinventing the company. The "old normal" was being a leader in memory chips. The "new normal" would lead them to become the leader in microprocessors. They made the right choice. Leaders today can reshape their organizations to become more competitive and use their platforms to positively impact society. Yes! Companies can do good while doing good. This increases loyalty from within and without.
Preparing for a new normal means that leaders understand the notion of taking their time to go fast. Many states re-opened before they were fully ready. As of this writing, many are re-closing or at least slowing down the re-opening process. Rather than fully embracing a new normal, some tried to go back to an old normal. Let's be clear. During or after a crisis, the old normal no longer exists! While the organization addresses the current situation, having a team of people (post-crisis team) dedicated to defining what the new normal should look like will help tremendously with the transformation. Pray for the best but plan for the worst. Take the red pill. The crisis is real! Prepare for the new normal.
That's it for now. Your candid feedback is both welcomed and appreciated. Please share your thoughts on Practice Four. At Apogee, we work with entities to strengthen their pipeline of leaders. Based in Cleveland, Ohio, we specialize in helping others lead through change and we offer premier leadership training programs and experiences. Find out more at apogeeleader.com/development.
Until the next time...