There has never been a time when the signature traits of women leaders will be more valuable. This is because women leaders have the chance to make a big difference in the lives of employees during the Covid-19 crisis.
Just the thought of engaging with colleagues and customers has become an anxiety producing event. The only thing that isn’t pre-recorded on television is the 24-hour news cycle, and the media is feeding their audiences appetite for negative news. How can people not be anxious? One of the grandest challenges for leading today is anxiety isn’t going away until people have access to the medical pieces to manage and prevent Covid-19. There is much, however that leaders can do and must do in the interim.
Leading in this time of pronounced anxiety requires leaders with great people skills. That’s good news for women leaders because they have a reputation as people persons. These are leaders that are empathetic, compassionate, friendly, and think in terms of we – not I. It’s exactly what the doctor ordered. Male leaders are inclined to be impersonal, forceful, and to think in terms of I not we. Men manage, women lead; they lead people, in this case anxious people, and they have the inherent skills to do it well.
Motivating the workforce is the order of the day, and it is a tall order. Many companies were ground to a halt, now teams need to be restarted. It won’t happen quickly, but it can happen quicker, even fully anticipating that employees will continually hear that another colleague has tested positive. This means sick leaves will be much higher than normal and employees must stay home until cleared by their doctor.
Leaders must be prepared to flexibly manage the work of their teams to ensure employee absences do not stymie production. Organized cross-training programs are in order. Some employees will jump at the chance for more variety in their work. For others, this will be another source of anxiety. Everyone has to be on board to do whatever it takes – and do it now.
This is a time when leaders must be able to instill a great sense of urgency. Companies that stay hobbled, are insecure employers. A leader in the roles of motivator-in-chief and team coach will work. These are roles that women leaders have shown a natural gravitation toward.
Employees recuperating from the virus, creates another ask of leaders. These employees need a little TLC. This means the boss needs to check in daily and report back to her team. Employees need to know that their boss really cares about them.
This is a time when leaders need to make it clear that every team member is essential to the team and the company. Leaders as team builders is another important role and one where women leaders tend to do well. They actually prefer building teams. Women are the gender that thinks in terms of we – not I. Every morning, job one should be an all-hands team meeting for employees present physically and virtually. Organized daily meetings are ideal for keeping everyone on track, building team camaraderie, managing tell-tale signs of impending problems, and providing the secure feeling of a leader that takes their responsibilities seriously. Right now, the most important responsibilities are keeping employees and the company healthy to permit everyone to stay employed.
Managing employee anxiety requires addressing sanitized workspaces and protection from what they can’t see that can hurt them. Already, lots is being written on how to do this well. Flexible work arrangements that stagger the number of employees onsite at any one time, regular reminders to guidelines that prevent disease spread, and obvious signs of an organization’s commitments to sanitization are all part of an employee-welcomed Covid-19 prevention program. These ultra-clean environments only work when there is 100 percent participation. Women leaders with a better record as role models and a tendency to think in terms of the greater good are naturals for convincingly encouraging their teams that this is the new normal. Making sure everyone stays safe, is everyone’s job.
I have always believed that women can be better leaders than men because of their people skills. Work is not supposed to be a place that people dread because their boss makes them miserable. Too many bosses see employees as hired labor rather than thinking, feeling people that aspire to greater things. In the times of Covid-19, women leaders that know employees are thinking, feeling beings that are particularly anxious, will be incredibly valuable. Women leaders have the chance to really improve the lives of employees at a time of greatest need. Can you think of anything more rewarding or beneficial?
Carpe Diem. Be that leader that employee’s want and need now.