Leading through a pandemic

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In recent months I have had the opportunity to speak with a range of Chairs and senior leaders about the challenges and opportunities they are facing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Along with the health and humanitarian sides of the crisis, the commercial world is in intensive care and must recover. This question is how and what does the new world look like, and how can business leaders prepare for the recovery?

The Management Theorist Henry Mintzberg defined strategy as 5Ps; Plan, Pattern, Position, Perspective and Ploy. This framework can be adapted to support leaders Position, Plan, Perspective, Projects and Preparedness.

Position in the market

As a leader you will have an inherent understanding, experience and insight into your sector, the market and opportunities. Take the time to review your strategic position, competitors and business model.  You will have had to make some difficult decisions around people, cash flow and this is likely to have a lasting impact on your business. Is it an opportunity to review and challenge your business model? Have your sector and competitors changed? Have you and will you?


The careful business planning process undertaken to forecast 2020/ 2021 will undoubtedly require adjustment. This is an opportunity to articulate what you need to do today, survive tomorrow, thrive and prosper in future.  Decisive planning and bold positioning will provide the business with every opportunity to bounce back.


Your leadership will define the culture and identity of the business in the post pandemic world. Organisations will collaborate more, but in time it may push people/teams apart.  The personal and professional isolation we will all feel can be overwhelming.  Where time permits, take the opportunity individually and with your team to ponder the future, think creatively and challenge the status quo. There will be ideas and opportunities not only from the leaders but also across the organisation, utilise the intellect and perspective from the whole business.


Have a clear purpose and outcome – ‘Will it make the boat go faster?’ to coin a phrase from the Olympic GB rowing team. Too many initiatives, with limited resources may result in demotivated teams and unrest in the wider employee population which will ultimately delay or derail your strategic response.


As a leader are you prepared for the new challenge and you understand from a personal perspective where you are on this emotional journey, however everyone reacts to and recovers from crises in different ways and different timescales – be accepting of this.

From an organisational perspective, are you able to deliver the plan and complete the agreed projects, is the structure fit for purpose, is this an opportunity to give responsibility to emerging leaders in the business. As a leader you must delegate and trust the insight and experience of those around you.

We are in unprecedented times and we may not be through the worst. Leaders and companies must take a proactive approach, engage and deal with the current challenges and plan to robustly bounce back in the future.

Reference: Harvard Business Review (HBR), Preparing your business for a post Pandemic World, April 2020.