Heeding the Lessons of the COVID-19 Pandemic for Organizational Survivability
The character ‘Gordon Gekko’ from the famous 1987 movie ‘Wall Street’ coined the phrase ‘Greed is Good’ which encapsulated the self-serving approach of the ‘cutthroat’ Corporate Sector in the 80s. This also became the prevalent mantra in the subsequent years for the brutally ambitious and perennially highflying executives in terms of stamping their success on the business landscape while serving as a ‘motivational tool’ for budding professionals. However, things began to change as the growth of the internet gave an influential voice to the ‘individual’ customer/client who had felt shortchanged earlier by the dominance of the major shareholders in deciding the future of the industry titans. The proliferation of online consumer forums in various manifestations (incisive blogs, shrewd vlogs, sarcastic TikTok videos, stinging tweets, viral campaigns, anonymous customer/client grievance sites, etc.) harnessed the ‘marginalized’ voices into a substantial ‘voting bloc’ for gauging the ‘going concern’ capability of competitive organizations. Additionally, pristine corporate reputations became increasingly susceptible to significant and, quite often, irreparable damage from a few keystrokes of an internet-savvy disturbed/disgruntled/disillusioned party from any corner of the world.
What the character ‘Gordon Gekko’ failed to emphasize while extolling the virtues of ‘Greed’ was that organizations are a reflection of their leadership and pristine reputations can be washed away with nagging scandals that linger in the minds of ‘prudent’ customers/clients whose numbers have grown manifolds with the ‘fostering’ provided by the internet. Such ‘enlightenment’ has meant that organizations cannot ‘afford’ the dubious/fallible ‘rock star’ leaders anymore with a propensity for ‘fizzling out’ in controversial circumstances (https://lnkd.in/ee3z3qPF). Consequently, they are increasingly leaning towards ‘seconding’ affable/personable executives who have mastered the art of seeming ‘ordinary’ while accomplishing ‘extraordinary’ feats as they are imbued with the principle of ‘serving’, rather than, being ‘served’ (https://lnkd.in/eUhDfSqx).
This is facilitating the transformation of what ‘Greed’ means within the hordes of ‘Digitally Emboldened’ customers/clients while gauging the ‘relevance’ of corporate leaders. It is steadily moving beyond the profiteering notion of ‘accumulation of financial assets by any means necessary’ to the altruistic notion of ‘accumulation of robust goodwill by transparent, efficacious and accountable practices’ (https://lnkd.in/eCGbMpBy). The following table provides further understanding in the respective context:
Furthermore, employees look to their leadership for vision, direction, role modeling and inspiration. However, if their confidence is not redeemed by an invigorating leadership then any attempt to inculcate a profound sense of purpose to accomplish difficult challenges can become an exercise in futility. This is especially true when employee expectations are not assessed proactively and effectively managed in a timely fashion as attested by the following results of a survey by McKinsey & Company:
The COVID-19 Pandemic was a catastrophic ‘wake-up’ call that jolted ‘complacent’ corporate leaders out of their ‘slumber’ (primarily induced by past achievements) as it invalidated all the ‘routine’ and ‘foreseeable’ risk-management plans while necessitating the imperative of rethinking ‘survival’, ‘relevance’ and ‘competitive’ strategies. Let’s explore some of the key lessons in the respective context:
People increasingly prefer brands that are aligned with their values
The devastating impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic forced people to assess the futility of chasing an ‘overbearing’ and ‘excessive’ lifestyle that largely focused on salivating over fancy and expensive brands in an incessant ‘craving’ for social acceptance within snobbish circles. Such a ‘self-reflection’ proved to be a catalyst for a relatively simpler living while raising the prudence level in terms of brand selection to facilitate a more ‘sustainable’ living. Consequently, organizations are increasingly focusing their marketing initiatives on ‘Conscious Branding’ (https://lnkd.in/eSFEEbtd) to preserve and increase their market share in congruence with changing consumer habits and trends. This is also galvanizing corporate leaders to build stronger ‘communal’ bridges that can act as a ‘buffer’ in future economic downturns, especially, those driven by unexpected events like the COVID-19 Pandemic.
People are unforgiving of corporate leaders who thrive on the misery of the masses
The words and actions of the corporate leaders came under intense scrutiny by the masses during the ‘turbulent times’ of the COVID-19 Pandemic (https://lnkd.in/eWwuaRQX) since there was a ‘humanistic’ desire to engage with companies that were willing to make ‘visible’ concessions in holding on to long-term customers/clients. Consequently, people put a premium on the empathy, resilience and authenticity of corporate leaders as their choices became narrower in terms of giving their ‘business’ to those who were in the ‘trenches’ with them. This has led to a comprehensive rethink of how organizations need to be run (https://lnkd.in/eUBSV_2d) and what it means to be a ‘justly capable’ leader (https://lnkd.in/eCGbMpBy). An important aspect in the respective context is the judgment of the consumers/clients in terms of gauging whether ‘exploitive’ leadership is an ‘abnormal’ situation or a ‘systemic’ issue that is liable to cripple an organization’s ability to meets their expectations.
People are reducing their ‘social’ networks and increase their ‘care’ networks
There was an heightened sense of urgency during the worst ravages of the COVID-19 Pandemic for people to find ‘true meaning’ in their lives as familial bonds were gradually strengthened while living under restrictive conditions. Digital gadgets steadily yielded to purposeful face-to-face conversations and bridges started being built over generational gaps. A general realization started circulating in the ‘homely’ atmospheres that the sacrifices made for career aspirations should not come at the cost of marginalizing relationships with the loved ones. This was also important from a health and wellbeing perspective (https://lnkd.in/dkbjwn2). Consequently, there has been a shift from ‘rampant extraversion’ to ‘preferred introversion’ in terms of reducing the ‘social crowds’ and increasing the ‘care crowds’ to extract more value from meaningful relationships. This is also being projected on the type of corporate leaders that people want to see at the helm of progressive organizations.
Unfortunately, Altruism is often seen either as a potential weakness in ‘compromising’ leaders or a clever marketing ploy by ‘conniving’ leaders to garner market share from ‘socially conscious’ customers/clients, rather than, being hailed as a core strength of ‘conscientious’ leaders. The following ‘EMPOWER’ framework can be utilized in enabling corporate leaders to develop and deploy an Altruistic Mindset as one of the key enablers of Organizational Excellence in progressive organizations:
Focused on extending care by internalizing the ‘pains/problems/predicaments’ of others
Focused on side-lining apprehensions/fears/misgivings by concentrating on the positives
Focused on unbiased ranking of significant issues for systematic problem-solving
Focused on accommodating constructive views/opinions/suggestions/ideas from multiple sources
Focused on developing win-win solutions that are readily embraced by key stakeholders
Focused on judicious and effective implementation of win-win solutions
Focused on timely and honest reviews that strengthen continuous improvement initiatives
An organization’s definition of ‘Success’ needs to balance the conventional coveting of ‘Reward and Recognition’ with the enterprising munificence of inter-human connectivity based upon shared values. This can be readily modeled and driven by the corporate leaders who are imbued with an Altruistic mindset. Such a proactive approach to ‘compassionate’ leadership is the best hope for organizations to survive the next ‘unexpected’ crisis as the strong psychological contracts affirmed during the ‘normal’ times with the workforce will work as a durable buffer in thwarting/alleviating/neutralizing any profound risks to the ‘going concern’ status of seemingly ‘secure’ organizations. Are you prepared accordingly?