29 Apr Leadership in the time of Corona
Piers Morgan pretty much singlehandedly invented the era of modern celebrity with his admiration and profiling of the Beckhams. So, over the last few days, it has been interesting to watch him go from Presidential lapdog and pantomime villain to protector of the NHS and national hero. He’s certainly controversial, and whether you love him or loathe him, you must admire his tenacity at reinventing himself again and again. He is a prime example of the possibility for redemption even for the most tainted of brands (think phone hacking and fake photos).
Another lockdown hero is the nation’s PE instructor, Joe Wicks. Wicks combines all that we need in a time of Coronavirus: he’s healthy and a good role model, he’s guileless and, fundamentally, he provides a 30 minutes activity class every day for children (and mums?!) to enjoy.
It would have been hard to call them out as ‘leaders’ before the virus struck, just as it was unlikely that Chris Whitty (Chief Medical Officer) and his straight talking, treat-you-like-an-adult, daily updates would have seen him on any People of the Year lists. Yet, ‘Leader Whitty’, he is. Although joined by Patrick Vallance most days and a parade of Government ministers, it is clearly Whitty that stands out.
Why? Perhaps straight talking is a large part of it. Perhaps treating people like responsible adults helps too. Perhaps repeating the message until people think ‘Enough already! We know!’ is a sure sign that your messages are landing with your audience.
What does this mean for founders/owners/business leaders and managing partners?
Corona means that the context for everything has changed.
Whilst a few weeks ago, many of you would have bitten my arm off had I told you that the national and broadcast media would be screaming for your thinking, today you lay silent. The irony is that, right now, there are probably more opportunities to be in front of the media than ever. The public is crying out for the informed opinion of experts – no matter what their field.
We have been working with leaders whose industries are bellwethers for the economy. Rather than hide the difficult figures, they have been sharing the data and helping their industry to make better-informed decisions. Their people know what’s expected of them, are sure that their leader is in charge, and are working hard to win more than their prior share in a contracting market.
We have helped law firms get their real estate, employment, restructuring, commercial and finance experts out there to help make sense of a chaotic world. A part of this is being confident enough to voice that you may not have all the answers. After all, who does? To know, and articulate clearly, what the challenges facing your industries and sectors are, to know what people and businesses are thinking but not saying, and what they should be thinking about, is what is in fact missing in the news cycle. This is where you can capitalise on the airtime.
As lots of world-class advertising and marketing experts have said recently, this profile is not purely going to be pay off in the short term – although it will lead to new instructions and retained business just as night follows day – but it will also mean that those leaders and businesses that dared to speak up will emerge from the current crisis stronger than ever. When competitors are mostly silent, be sure to be the one who is front of mind when the inevitable upswing does come.
If you’d like to be someone that, come January 1st 2021, people remember as having led the way through a time of crisis, then we would love to speak with you.