Do You Have the Right People in Your Foxhole? Consider C-Suite Peer Groups

Being a leader is a lonely job under the best of circumstances. Forging close friendships with work colleagues isn’t part of a CEO’s remit, nor should it be. Even executives who are committed to inclusive and transparent leadership understand that the unique demands of running an organization require a certain degree of circumspection. During a crisis, communicating with the right blend of candor, optimism, and urgency while preserving the optionality to make tough decisions becomes an exponentially more challenging needle for leaders to thread.

What CEOs Are Talking About Right Now

If you wonder what chief executive officers are thinking right now, here is a small window into those conversations. Recently, RHR International facilitated conversations with groups of CEOs from different industries. The purpose was to allow CEOs to share ideas and to calibrate their thoughts about reopening after the COVID-19 shutdown. As the CEOs started sharing, it quickly became obvious not every industry sector is in the same place. Some companies are fighting for survival, others are weathering the storm, and a third group is thriving due to new, unexpected opportunities.

CEO Succession and the COVID-19 Pandemic

As the coronavirus crisis impacts our society, it creates some unique challenges for boards. One of the major issues under consideration is whether the chief executive officer who took you to this point is the same leader who can take your company through this challenge and beyond. Ultimately, leaders are judged by the way they perform during the worst of times, and the current crisis represents a challenge that no current CEO has seen previously in their careers. How CEOs and their teams perform during these moments of truth will be an unforgiving test of their character.

Developing Talent in Crisis and Beyond

As many of us look at how businesses can survive during this pandemic-induced business slowdown (or shutdown for many), it should be obvious that leadership is more important than ever. The leadership choices being made today will have profound and long-term impacts not only on the business, but on employee engagement and loyalty. Most leaders will be thinking about the defensive moves that they need to make to protect their businesses. A few will be thinking about opportunities that may provide chances to grow or redirect their market positioning.

Twenty-First Century Leadership for Twenty-First Century Problems

Twentieth century leadership was characterized by the heroic, brilliant individual leaders who led countries and people out of wars and into prosperity. Twenty-first century leaders are those who can quickly pull together other great minds to solve complex problems. One of the reasons the federal government of the United States is struggling to respond to COVID-19 is because it is set up to implement policy, not to solve complex problems.

The New Normal Is Now

As we enter a middle phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, our clients are rapidly moving from shock and crisis to thinking about a world that will be changed for the foreseeable future. There is a good reason to do so. As much of the industrialized world remains in quarantine, we are all changing the way that we work and live in real time. These changes will lead to new, adaptive, and resilient behavior patterns that are likely to drive profound shifts in economic activity and value.

A Time for Reflection

The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted lives throughout the world. The social distancing we have reluctantly adopted to protect ourselves from the threat of contamination has reduced or eliminated our in-person interactions with the people who have been a part of our social experience. We are now hunkered down with only a few others and with ourselves. Both the occupation of our time and attention at work as well as outlets for our entertainment and diversion have been greatly reduced or removed altogether. We have been challenged to develop new ways to spend our waking hours.

Leading Through Disruption

Anyone in a leadership position at this point in time is likely feeling a great deal of pressure and personal responsibility to do the right thing without the advantage of a clear and dependable playbook. With these unprecedented and uncertain times, we can utilize wisdom from the past to help leaders be a stabilizing force as we try to make sense of our present environment and prepare for what lies ahead. Demonstrating resilience in these turbulent times is critical to weathering adversity.

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