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The Perseverance of Resilient Leadership
Sustaining impact on the road to thrive.
By Punit Renjen, CEO, Deloitte Global
As resilient leaders amid Covid-19 and other societal challenges, we must sustain our people, organizations, and society—as well as our own ability to lead—so that we can endure the long road ahead and build trust among all stakeholders.
A few months ago, we imagined "thriving" as leading our organizations to a better normal after the Covid-19 pandemic. Yet our responsibilities as leaders now are further compounded by concurrent challenges of racial injustices, climate change, and economic uncertainties. Getting to "thrive" appears more arduous and lengthier than many of us imagined … or hoped for.
The first wave and recurrences of Covid-19 continue to plague many parts of the world. Seventy-six percent of companies and many geographies in our most recent analysis are still in the respond and recover phases of the crisis.
In late July 2020, our biweekly Deloitte State of the Consumer Tracker told a tale of two worlds: increasing consumer anxiety in nine countries across five continents, including India, Chile, China, Australia, Spain, and the United States, but more positive sentiment in nine other countries (seven of which are in Europe). Varying epidemiology curves and local responses further complicate matters for multinationals, which can't apply uniform playbooks and investment priorities across the globe. Even companies and geographies that have entered the thrive phase realize that we are all in this long journey together, because our prospects are inextricably linked.
The future of each of our organizations, though, is not preordained. As resilient leaders, one of our most critical roles right now is to sustain: to sustain our people, many of whom are experiencing not only fatigue but more stresses than they ever have; to sustain our organizations in continuing to create value for all stakeholders; and to sustain society as it experiences multiple existential threats. But just as important, we must also sustain our own ability to lead so that we can continue to serve over the long journey ahead.
Pondering these four imperatives as Deloitte Global CEO, I wanted to share my thoughts with you as fellow leaders on this journey, as well as some questions we should all be asking ourselves.
One of the five qualities of resilient leaders we noted in the article we released at the outset of the Covid-19 pandemic is speed over elegance — taking decisive action with courage based on imperfect information, knowing that speed is essential. "The need to make critical decisions under conditions of extreme uncertainty" is the core context for the emotional fortitude that is part of the inner work of the CEO.
Courageous conversations are at the heart of such decisive, bold leadership actions, which are even more critical now to sustaining our people. Such conversations enable us to deliver truthful messages and real-time feedback amid the crisis, and require courage:
- To address difficult situations such as business closures, layoffs, and furloughs rather than ignoring them and hoping they go away.
- To decide and implement a course of action, even when unpopular.
- To speak the truth about the situation, why each decision was made, and acknowledge the implications.
- To listen to the minds and hearts of our people — even if the message is something you might not be comfortable hearing. This can not only help us to formulate a more well-informed decision, but is also essential to sustaining the organization.
For more information on how private company leaders can sustain impact on the road to thrive, visit Deloitte Insights.