It is in times of crisis that good leaders emerge. Real test of leadership does not occur when everything is smooth-sailing, rather leadership is oftentimes tested during a crisis.

While a lot of leaders have failed in times of crisis, some have performed exceptionally well due to the measures they adopted during the time of crisis.

This Week on Springboard, Your Virtual University, a radio programme on Joy FM, the Chief Executive Officer of MTN Ghana, Mr Selorm Adadevoh, shared some tips on what kind of leadership was required in unconventional times like the COVID-19 pandemic and what it meant for redefining a company’s strategy.

Sharing his thoughts on how big a disruption COVID-19 had caused, he said the word unprecedented would be the right adjective to describe how huge it was.

“The economic impact has been likened to the great depression in 1930. We came into 2020 with a completely different plan and we were welcomed by COVID-19 in the first quarter,

which meant that we had to rethink our entire strategy for the year and also look at what this means for the path going forward,” he noted.

Accepting and acknowledging uncertainty

Mr Adadevoh said the first thing every leader ought to do in such times was to accept and acknowledge that there was uncertainty.

“Sometimes leaders try to come across as having answers to everything, and in a situation that there is crisis, acknowledging that you don’t really have the answers is a good starting point,” he noted.

He said it was also important for a leader to ensure that there was unity among the senior management members of the company in times like this.

That, he said, would help find some certainty in the midst of the uncertainty.

“There are a lot of questions that we cannot answer, but there are some that we can answer; so we need to focus on the things that are certain while acknowledging the uncertainties,” he stated.

Demonstrating right dose of empathy

The CEO also noted that it was important for leaders to demonstrate the right dose of empathy during crisis.

“As leaders, demonstrating empathy and understanding our stakeholders is extremely important.

That vulnerability is what starts to build this bond between you and the stakeholders for them to listen to you when you come back with your strategy on how to deal with the crisis,” he noted.

He said absolute transparency was also very important during crisis and that required that every information was shared in a transparent manner.

“Once people get the soundness and logic behind decision making, there is a lot more trust and more calm and in as much as there is uncertainty,

people start to feel that there is a defined path forward and that brings calm and allows everyone to continue operating,” he added.

Humility

Mr Adadevoh pointed out that it was necessary for leaders to be humble and confident in times of crises.

“You are going to have different opinions, different companies doing different things and different countries with different policies, and in all of this, there is a lot of noise. There are very specific situations for different companies, businesses and countries and there is a lure to follow the herd in such circumstances.

“But remaining humble and confident that you are allowing yourself to assimilate the different sources of information coming through and making the right decisions based on your specific circumstance cannot be over-emphasised,” he explained.

Strategic patience

The CEO said it was also important for leaders to think through how they could demonstrate patience through the way they interacted with their stakeholders and what that meant for the strategies they had already embarked on.

“It is very easy to be lured to start a change of direction too quickly because something has happened, so having that strategic patience is very important to understand whether a move is worth taking or not.

He said stamina was also necessary as a lot of people made decisions and were confident, but when things started to change, they easily interpreted their decision as a wrong one.

“So having the stamina through all of this is very important,” he noted.

Resilience

Mr Adadevoh also noted that resilience was very important, stating that every leader ought to be a source of energy for the team.

“Show that strength that they need because in all of these, people start to look for someone to draw their energy from and leadership should be the source of energy.

He also advised leaders not to just think about what was happening during the crisis but also think about what would happen after the crisis.

“A lot of times, people tend to focus too much on dealing with the turbulence of the crisis that they forget that beyond the turbulence, something else must happen.

“Lots of people survive the crisis but begin to fail as soon as the crisis ends and things come back to normalcy, and this is because they did not factor in that consumers and behaviours have changed over the period of the crisis,” he explained.