Leading From the Top

We scribe on all things HR to add value to your organisation

by | Nov 9, 2020

Living through the current global health crisis, we have no precedent to look back towards. There’s no manual to show us how to manage our businesses, safeguard against health issues or reverse the devastating economic and social impacts of the pandemic. It’s during these periods of crisis when company culture and leadership become more important than ever before.

It’s well known that true leaders are often forged during a crisis – their responses and actions can determine the journey and the final outcome of any given situation and quite literally make or break the success of a company in times of extreme challenges. Leadership attributes flow in a downward spiral to employees and influence how those on the ground are connected, empowered and engaged. Great leaders should show up with great authenticity – acknowledging the challenges, accepting people’s fears and concerns and taking the time to lead with transparency, accepting that it’s okay not to know all the answers. True leaders regularly conduct health checks with their teams, encourage collaboration and support to create a culture which is both nurturing and supportive of wellbeing. They don’t just listen but take action to address pain points, resolve dysfunctional operational or structural issues to create an environment in which employees feel heard, understood and supported.

Opportunities to lead

It’s a testing time for leaders. There’s no doubting that. Leaders will be challenged with issues never experienced before. Perhaps they’re still flexing their leadership muscles but need to make decisions quickly and accurately. They’ll be required to analyse constantly changing situations and make decisions which impact not just the organisation but the real humans who sit behind it. Whilst the company values and culture are important, just as critical is the way in which leadership teams show up and display the correct behaviours and attitudes to promote company growth and support a robust culture. Right now, true leadership on a human level is needed more than ever.

With commercial growth heavily impacted for many organisations, understandably, a key concern is to focus on the bottom line, but without a balanced focus on the people within the organisation, growth becomes harder to attain. Evidence shows us that cultivating a strong culture, in which the leaders lead by example and reinforce the integrity of the company, is a powerful driver of business performance and employee satisfaction. Of course, a bottom-up, as well as a top-down approach, is most effective in aligning all employees, whatever their position in the organisation.  Clear communication plans are essential to increase awareness and buy-in from employees and to help them connect the values-driven culture, to their purpose.

Mental health challenges have peaked during the pandemic – rates of stress, anxiety, depression and overwhelm have risen sharply with 78% of participants in a recent survey reporting that their mental health issues had worsened (news-medical.net) creating a real challenge for leadership teams in terms of the impact this may have on employee wellbeing, workplace productivity and maintaining robust, healthy teams. Leading with strong inclusive values and wellbeing support can go a long way to alleviating some of the overwhelm, as employees start to return to a new normal. If employees feel cared for, heard and supported by those who lead them, the return to growth and commercial normality will be a far easier journey. HR teams should be forward-thinking in designing and supporting a more robust culture through a systematic approach to both top-down values-based leadership and the provision of wellbeing support for all employees.

Setting up for future success involves a careful balance of strong values-based corporate culture and authentic human leadership to help nurture an environment of inclusivity, strength and positivity. If your organisation needs help to attain the right balance, contact Red Wagon Workplace solutions to support you in leading from the top.

About the author

As President and South Australian State Councillor of the Australian HR Institute (AHRI), Susan is a valued advisor and thought leader to her clients and the HR community. Maintaining an extensive understanding of employment law and business acumen through her work and connectivity to the AHRI and the business community, Susan is a master at finding innovative people orientated solutions, carefully balanced with the commercial reality.


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