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Leading Through a Crisis

  Jul 3, 2020

SBS hosted a learning series for the senior management team from Java House Africa. Speaking during the learning session, Carl Wagner, Academic Director of the Global CEO programme highlighted resilience, at the individual level and the organizational level as a key determinant of business survival and success in the face of COVID-19. “During crises, leaders must be able to unify their teams behind a single purpose,” he said.

Carl further shared 5 attributes of good leaders from an article by Mckinsey & Company.

Effective Communication. In times of crisis, people seek direction; they want to know where they are going and what to do. Leaders need to provide frequent updates and communication, this will go a long way in reassuring stakeholders that they are confronting the crisis.

Empathy. A good leader must be able to show empathy. In a novel crisis, people’s minds turn first to their survival and other basic needs. Will I be sickened or hurt? Will my family? What happens then? Who will care for us?

Elevating leaders during a crisis. A good leader will show ‘‘deliberate calm’ and ‘bounded optimism’. Deliberate calm is the ability to detach from a fraught situation and think clearly about how one will navigate it. Deliberate calm is most often found in well-grounded individuals who possess humility but not helplessness. Bounded optimism or confidence combined with realism. Early in a crisis, if leaders display excessive confidence despite obviously difficult conditions, they can lose credibility.

Making decisions amid uncertainty. A crisis comes with many surprises, all the facts may not be clear immediately. Leaders can use the Pause-Assess-Anticipate-Act cycle when making decisions since it helps leaders maintain a state of deliberate calm and avoid overreacting to new information as it comes in.

Organize via a network of teams. In routine emergencies, the typical company can rely on its command-and-control structure to manage operations well by carrying out a scripted response. But in crises characterized by uncertainty, leaders face problems that are unfamiliar and poorly understood. To promote rapid problem solving and execution under high-stress, chaotic conditions, leaders can organize a network of teams.

Java House Africa is a chain of coffee houses headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya. It was founded in 1999 by Kevin Ashley and today has various outlets across 14 cities in East Africa. The company is at its trajectory and has partnered with SBS to offer leadership training for its senior management team. The programme, dubbed the ‘Java Star Leadership Programme’ began its first module in March 2020.

At Strathmore University Business School, we endeavor to develop great and transformative African leaders of the 21st Century. The bewildering rate of change in new ethical and governance challenges increases the demand for great ethical leaders with a passion for excellence.

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Article by Juliet Hinga


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