The great opportunity that today’s leaders have to rewrite history

Before the COVID-19 pandemic crisis, those involved in communications who argued that a critical change in people’s daily lives and how businesses would operate would take place very soon, were often characterized as excessive. Notwithstanding, a number of organizational leaders however took an entirely different view in light of the fast approach of big data, augmented reality and artificial intelligence. They were quick to transform their corporate brand into a “brand with purpose”, with a view to ensuring their sustainability based on the emerging changes in consumer demands.

They reformed their organizations and their communication strategy at both corporate and product branding level as they had realized, even before the pandemic shaped every stakeholder’s new habits and characteristics, that creative thinking alone is not enough to attract a predetermined age or demographic audience. A new type of thought creativity strategy is now needed, one which proves why the organization and its products possess the prestige and accountability needed to enter the daily lives of an audience with a strictly predetermined profile. The key? Reputation, prestige, substance and purpose. This will define this decade’s love brands. COVID-19 however brought about the future much earlier than expected. “Love” does not reflect the “lovable” element created or portrayed today through a creative communicative approach. “Love” is now defined as the valid, clear, safe, reliable and “visionary” product that we allow to enter our lives which we know at least part of, if not every aspect of it. Therefore the term “visionary”, is by no means accidental. It constitutes the challenge that today’s leaders have to urgently deal with head on.

Crises give birth to legendary leaders

The opportunity for leaders to crate their very own history in the age of the pandemic is just as unprecedented and challenging as the pandemic itself. History, of course, shows us that only a small number actually manage to succeed under such circumstances, leaving those that are apathetic, dumbfounded or surprised at changes that require action and adaptability, behind. In any case, what is certain is that how leaders respond to the COVID-19 crisis will stigmatize, characterize and overshadow their entire professional career, no matter how successful they were up until early 2020. In effect, their leadership post 2020 is actually starting from scratch.

Theoretically, while the recent multi-year economic crisis should have made a positive contribution to speeding up our responses to a perceived, negative drastic change, this hasn’t proved to be the case. Out of the five key stages of crisis response (denial, shock and silence, introversion, calling for help and correcting the situation), the majority of leaders today seem to remain in the second or, at best, the third stage. The legendary leaders of the era will prove to be those most prepared to reach the fifth stage as fast as possible.

The future has arrived … yesterday, forcing us to rethink

While nobody can safely predict the immediate future, what it is more than certain is that multilevel developments are accelerating not only in how they affect our everyday lives but how they are necessitating a change in traditional forms of how organizations function. With most conservative forecasts predicting global (and Greek) GDP to take at least three years to return to pre-COVID-19 levels, it is difficult to predict short-term changes in our social habits with any certainty. As a result, addressing this situation as a whole will not arise if leaderships prefer to remain in their comfort zone.

Almost self-evidently, the unprecedented situation we continue to live in has brought with it, since it began, the basic prerequisites of adaptability and alertness. Within this context,  adaptability refers to how leaders perceive and handle themselves, their people, and their organization’s role under the new reality, while alertness refers to the speed with which they are being called upon to perceive and deal with the ever-changing environment of everyday life.

The human-centric approach at every level and the exploitation of technology -amongst other factors- must be viewed as fundamental. Every leader must adapt their organization in such a way that they can react effectively and quickly to different and changing conditions. This may sound theoretical, but it isn’t. A business’ production power for example, depends on the impact of the pandemic at local level as well as the impact on partners, suppliers and customers. Leaders are being called upon to build resilient organizations ensuring the maximum possible combined degree of adaptability. At the same time, they are being called upon to be at the ready in order to absorb the significant aid made available by the state and institutional bodies to address the consequences of the pandemic, requiring changes even in organizations’ production models.

Never before have leaders had to deal with such an ongoing multi-layered crisis like the current one and have to face such a great and at the same very real challenge. Today’s leaders have a choice: to seize the opportunity rewrite a part of modern history themselves or be easily and ingloriously forgotten by it.

Published on CAPITAL