“Enjoy yourself, because it’s later than you think” – Chinese proverb
By Ingo Ploger, entrepreneur and President of CEAL, Brazil.
The reality of a pandemic is always faster than expected. As good as a prevention plan may be, experience demonstrates that we are lagging behind in our responses. This experience I share with many leaders who, like me, classify the Covid-19 pandemic as something never experienced in recent times. The speed of reality and the inherent complexity of the agents who work with us from authorities, economics and people are such that decisions taken today will have to be reviewed tomorrow. The secondary and tertiary effect of the pandemic could be more dramatic than the pandemic itself, in humanitarian terms.
Preparing well for coping requires, in addition to planning and the crisis plan, leadership attitudes that overlap with the rationale experienced so far. Their behavior will be of extreme importance to avoid overreaction on the one hand, and on the other hand decrease expectation. The fine-tuning of the emergency, urgency and relevance are closely related to the leadership’s openness to listen, feel and act. You will quickly realize that when you have a misperception, the need to change, correct and retreat becomes vital. One cannot be afraid of making mistakes and admitting its mistake, giving the team the strength to comment on differences and insist on visualizing alternatives. Flexibility is everything at this point. Previously very well defined structures, hierarchies and processes are set aside if necessary. Empowerment of the Task Force beyond its previous competencies will make the response effective. It is at this moment that a new mindset is installed. The Task Force is led not by the CEO, who will validate empowerment at all times, but by a leader, whose profile is one of agility, daring, team building and commands power. It is simply, our fire brigade, which will be exceptional in the emergency, saving lives and materials. The Task Force’s mindset will be to save lives as much as it can, knowing however that there will be losses along the way that will undermine the troops’ morale. Your mission is to save as much as you can and your actions will be directed in this direction. The secondary mission is to provide conditions so that during recovery the losses will be as small as possible, because the economic effects of Covid-19 will be extremely high for groups of economic risk that could be victims of unemployment and economic default, creating unimaginable social tensions. Therefore, we have several types of risk groups to manage: the primary health, low infectious resistance, the elderly and immune-suppressant diseases. And the secondary ones, which are the economically vulnerable groups that in the background may generate social and security tensions public and of hunger. Honest communication, quickly avoiding panic, but mobilizing for urgency, will be the art of leading.
Speed will be better than accuracy. Very difficult for those who are used to high quality in everything they do. Install the new mindset not only in the team but also in the population, creating new habits while exercising solidarity.
In the case of governments, we see actions in this direction, but we realize that they act late and the consequences are of closing out and opening inwards. Elderly and immunosuppressive risk groups receive institutional attention, which we know if we do not postpone contamination, we will not have enough care. We now also know the secondary economic and social risk groups, where travel and hospitality areas are severely affected. Governments act in support of these groups, the bigger ones will do better than the small ones. Small trade, food and services will be affected in the short term to such an extent, affecting their economic and financial survival.
There follows a behavior of value that needs to be praised – solidarity – and mutual assistance. We have records of exceptional attitudes, in all fields where sincere and immediate solidarity appears to those most affected. Everyone has the ability to exercise the same.
It is up to the real leadership of value, setting examples and extolling this attitude. We will come out stronger than when we entered this crisis, and we will not forget the leaders who knew how to lead with exemplary attitudes. We will leave with a new mindset, which I hope will be much better and where the feeling of human solidarity will be the big winner.