Maintaining business leadership presence during the Covid-19 shutdowns has reinforced my belief that every negative comes with hidden positives.
In my company’s particular case, we had a robust online presence that kept our products available to people no matter how uncertain the situation became. Between this choice of platform, and a general culture of adaptability and flexibility, we weathered the storm fairly well — even with aplomb, if I may say.
In the spirit of full transparency, I have to admit that certain steps I took prior to the Covid-19 shutdown prepared my company to thrive when things destabilized. At this point, the average worker is digitally fluent enough to use all tools needed to work remotely. You need virtual communication tools, clear processes, accountability reports, weekly reports and similar check-ins. Each of those initiatives is relatively easy to organize. But, the true key to a successful virtual team is maintaining leadership presence.
What does leadership presence mean? In a physical team, I would call it the leader’s aura. People have a natural understanding of who you are based on how you carry yourself and speak. Once you hit a certain comfort level and confidence, it happens naturally, even if you don’t think about it much. When you’re running a virtual team, you need to project that aura more consciously and deliberately. How do you do that?
For starters, being a leader doesn’t mean hovering over anybody’s shoulder. I believe any business owner with that particular management technique was likely devastated when the lockdowns made hovering impossible. However, if you set certain values as your company’s North Star, you can guide the ship whether you’re running a business while studying in college four thousand miles away or dealing with a global pandemic.
One of the most important values to me as a leader is empathy. When I’m touching base with my team remotely, being empathetic means getting in touch with each team member’s personal goals for themselves and seeing how those align with my company’s goals for them professionally.
When you’re in an unprecedented situation like the one brought about by Covid-19, the topic that has mattered most to my employees is security. They want to know their jobs will be secure in the present and future. They want to know they will have a health plan when we’re all thinking about a pandemic. They want to know that their families will be provided for. Part of being an empathetic leader is being realistic about that message and speaking to it as honestly as possible.
Beyond speaking to my teammates’ priorities, I’ve noticed that everything you communicate as a leader is contagious, so I don’t leave my culture up to chance. I want a spirit of positivity and a can-do attitude to shine through every member of my team. I want to set the example of a team player who is the first to offer guidance or a helping hand.
If people know that they are part of a team with a leader who truly listens to them and cares for them, they will work to outdo themselves each day. I have seen this phenomenon over and over again, and it’s why I choose to lead the way I do.