COVID-19 Leadership Resources for Building Resiliency in Uncertain Times

September 18, 2020

Case categories include: Founder’s Insights   Leadership   Strategy & Planning   

COVID-19 Leadership Resources

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

It’s no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic has had an incredibly transformative effect on the business world. Many companies are now nearly completely digital or moving toward it, entire supply chains are working through challenges, and questions of proper safety precautions and fulfillment complicate day-to-day operations. In this atmosphere of sweeping change, organizational resiliency has never been more important.

I’ve seen this first-hand as I’ve had the privilege of working with hundreds of Alliance members representing a multitude of industries across the globe. Inspired by the resilience of these diverse CEOs, I’d like to share some effective ways to access COVID-19 leadership resources and innovative strategies for adapting to the evolving state of the “new normal.”

Great COVID-19 Leadership Resources Stem From Diverse Ideas

Reflecting on the coronavirus-impacted business world brings a specific acronym to mind: VUCA. A military turn of phrase born out of the Cold War’s final days, VUCA is short for volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity—four words used to describe general conditions or situations for developing strategic organizational insight. By taking into account these aspects of a challenge, it’s possible to more fully understand, anticipate, and prepare for uncertainties.

I find this term useful for illuminating our current virus-driven environment and how to develop a resilient response. For example, as unpredictable as the earliest days of the pandemic were, the most effective CEOs strategically analyzed the many interrelated and complex variables facing their business sector. Many relied on input from leaders of other industries who could share a wide variety of perspectives and approaches.

This gave CEOs the ability to see the bigger picture, anticipate the challenges ahead, and develop a plan designed for their specific circumstances. It also provided an advantageous environment wherein CEOs could speak openly and candidly with other leaders and discuss their fears, concerns and challenges, before making their next move. With a wide range of perspectives available to them, CEOs were then able to take quick and decisive action. 

To be resilient in a business world defined by VUCA, you need to have a mindset that is open to new ideas and change. However, leading this adaptable work culture shouldn’t end with logistical changes. To stay resilient in a VUCA world, this openness to new ideas is a basic necessity for capitalizing on the opportunities that arise from tumultuous moments.

Identify and Capitalize on New Opportunities

Many forward-thinking CEOs are pivoting toward new opportunities originating from the COVID-19 crisis, with increasingly promising results. We routinely ask Alliance members to share how the Coronavirus has affected their business, and I’ve been amazed at the upward trends and successes they’ve described. Here is a breakdown of the results from March through September showing the general trajectory of how Alliance companies are moving away from being “extremely negatively” impacted toward more “neutral” and “moderately positive” standings.

COVID-19 Business Impacts According to CEOs
Alliance of CEOs

For instance, I recently spoke with a CEO whose company manufactures printers and copiers. As COVID-19 hit, they kept an eye open toward how their business could use their production capabilities to create more in-demand products. Soon enough, as the national shortage of ventilators, sanitizers, and PPE began, this CEO expanded into medical supply production, turning their company’s negatively impacted economic status into a more positive outcome.

Though this is just one example, I have seen countless other leaders making similarly successful pivots. And, indeed, for the majority of industries, these moves are necessary for building strength amongst uncertainty. To discover these opportunities, CEOs can take advantage of one of the most valuable COVID-19 leadership resources: a supportive, diverse and well-informed community to turn to in times of need.

Find a Community Rich in Support and Diverse in Knowledge

Making even minor or major business adjustments can be difficult, especially in a pandemic-battered world where unpredictability abounds. However, surrounding yourself with other knowledgeable leaders is a fantastic way to cut through uncertainty and tap into the wisdom of diverse leaders who can share their experiences and perspectives.

I sometimes see a tendency from leaders to seek out others who think the same way or only specialize in the same field—this is not a recipe for resiliency. Rather, exposure to diverse perspectives and ideas can help CEOs think outside the box, expand their worldview, realign focus and clear confusion. Central to the Alliance philosophy is the power of diversity, which allows leaders to conceptualize problems in novel ways, and create innovative solutions and fresh ideas. This has been true long before COVID-19 and will continue well past it. I’ve seen time and time again that leaders who surround themselves with diverse thinking and embrace it fully, create opportunities for immense advantage.

For example, in late March when the CARES Act was passed, there was an overabundant stream of information surrounding what it meant for business leaders. As soon as CEOs thought they understood what it entailed and were about to take action, it seemed to change. Through conversations with these leaders, different information and resources were shared, and Alliance members were able to outline what these developments would mean for their businesses and employees in the following months.

The CARES Act was but one example. Alliance CEOs cut through the noise of information, vetted the most important and beneficial resources and shared that knowledge with other leaders. We were then able to collect and share the most relevant and timely COVID-19 leadership resources with our entire community. But, those are simply tangible and tactical resources. The bigger, most effective resources will always be strategic and innovative in nature.

Within the Alliance community, strategic conversations take place on a daily basis to address a wide range of issues, challenges and opportunities. As a result of this open communication, we have all been able to see the available options and consider the possible results, leading to intelligent, effective action when we’ve encountered problems in our own businesses. For many CEOs, these conversations are truly the best COVID-19 leadership resource for navigating recent obstacles and building resiliency.

This kind of informed decision-making, while gaining support from those you respect and trust, is what builds true resiliency and it only comes from challenging your own way of thinking.

In times of uncertainty, staying resilient is a must. Discover COVID-19 leadership resources to help your company by contacting the Alliance of CEOs.