COVID-19 Leadership: Challenges and Solutions

August 21, 2020

Case categories include: Founder’s Insights   Leadership   

COVID-19 Leadership: Challenges and Solutions

By Paul Witkay, Founder & CEO, Alliance of Chief Executives

It isn’t a stretch to say that the COVID-19 crisis has dramatically impacted nearly every business across the globe. Between the virus making remote work nearly universal to the complete shutdown of certain industries, the past few months have been filled with new and evolving challenges. And as constant change becomes commonplace, strong leadership now matters more than ever.

For almost a quarter of a century, I have had the privilege of working alongside some of the brightest business minds in the Bay Area who lead companies in virtually every industry. The pandemic nonetheless has taken most of these leaders by surprise, and I’ve had the opportunity to observe how they deal with this COVID-19 crisis.

Although COVID-19 has threatened our health and safety and deeply affected our economy, every leader has had to deal with their own unique set of challenges caused by the COVID crisis, from exposure to different industries and customers, operations in various geographies, and financial strengths or weaknesses.

Leadership Challenges Created by COVID-19

Working so closely with strategically-minded business leaders, I’ve been struck by the way they’ve used today’s turbulence as an opportunity to return to basics. They’ve reconfirmed their core business missions, reevaluated what is absolutely critical to their success, and maintained a laser focus on their customers’ needs. The challenges listed below will probably be familiar to you; hopefully, hearing the solutions others have utilized will help you to deal with your own COVID-19 leadership challenges.

Challenge #1: Accessing Information for Better Leadership

In addition to a firm grasp of their current financial and operational conditions, leaders need real-time information in three areas:

  • The status of COVID-19 in areas where their employees,  customers, and suppliers are located
  • The financial and operational condition of their customers and all companies within their industry supply chains
  • The level of disruption in adjacent or complementary industries that could impact their business

In short, be aware of who’s thriving and who’s hurting—when, where, and how. Good decision-making and leadership for your company depend on knowing the answers to these questions.

Challenge #2: Changing How Work Gets Done

Within days after the virus began to spread, leaders were faced with doing something they may have thought to be impossible: moving from meeting in-person to meeting exclusively online. Fortunately, the technology was available but very few companies had used it to the extent we do now. Our staffs had to conduct accurate and rapid-fire research, create training programs, and develop practices to keep everyone connected. But are they now ready for the next steps?

Since March, we’ve seen an acceleration of previously-occurring trends: digital transformation, automation, robotics, communication, and globalization. Essentially, COVID-19 has pushed companies to reinvent how they do business, and that has resulted in greater operational efficiency. 

Moving business more into the realm of digital and AI will increase the resiliency of supply chains, and that will enable leaders like you to transform your organization for a brighter future.

The big question, then, is: What is the best way for you to capture that opportunity?

Challenge #3: Generating Fresh Approaches to Unique Challenges & Opportunities

COVID-19 has disrupted our entire global economy and savvy leaders know that huge opportunities are created in times of crisis and transition. However, prior to making decisions for long-term, strategic shifts, it’s critically important to deeply understand the challenges and opportunities in front of you. During these unprecedented times, leaders must extend their reach outside of their own industries and ecosystems to gain fresh perspectives, while challenging their most basic assumptions. Breakthrough ideas typically come from outside one’s own industry, and those novel approaches can change everything.

COVID-19 Leadership: Challenges and SolutionsBy seeking advanced insights and perceptions from other industries, innovative leaders are free to ask questions such as, “How might we engage with our customers if we were starting today with no resources except talent and sufficient funding?” This critical engagement with bright, diverse leaders who aren’t committed to your own business model, will take your thinking to a whole new level. You’ll gain not only fresh approaches to new situations, but also a clear idea of the power of cognitive diversity.

Moving Forward With Your Best Leadership Solutions

At the Alliance of CEOs, our culture has always centered on the power of diversity. We’re passionate about bringing leaders together and brainstorming ways to help one another succeed. While the COVID-19 pandemic has produced profound feelings of uncertainty, the openness with which our members have shared their experiences and listened to each other has produced impactful lessons and fresh ideas that help us all adapt. In fact, this crisis has intensified the engagement of our members who come from around the world with experience in every industry. The amount of wisdom and experience they bring to the table is simply incredible.

By design, our Alliance community of leaders shares a culture that respects different perspectives and thrives when discussing complex challenges in “safe” and confidential environments. Their enthusiasm for hearing outside perspectives has been an enormous boon to our membership and is the key to turning these conversations into successful business decisions.

I believe that COVID-19 will be the catalyst for a major shift in the global economy, bringing enormous opportunities for leaders like you, providing you embrace it. With an open mind and a willingness to innovate, you can find the answers to COVID-19’s leadership challenges and bounce back from them even bigger and better than before.

For more thoughts on COVID-19 leadership challenges and their solutions, contact the Alliance of CEOs