The New Challenges Facing Executive Leadership, and How to Rise Above Them

December 22, 2020 5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Executive leaders have always had their share of challenges. From developing strategic opportunities to empowering their workforce, the pillars of leadership haven’t changed. And the best leaders are always those who can adapt quickly. But a lot has changed, and our current world brings us unique challenges. 

As we turn the calendar to the new year, the challenges we have faced over the last 365 days will inform many of our decision moving forward.

Related: Marketing Amid a Pandemic: 3 Ways to Adapt to the Paradigm Shift

How we present our company to the world.

It’s time we all stand for something. Organizations shouldn’t simply fall back on old marketing strategies to raise company awareness.

In the past, companies often didn’t want to enter the fray of social issues for fear of alienating potential customers. However, based on the National Retail Federation’s 2020 The Evolving Conversation On Consumer Values, 74% of respondents agree that companies’ conduct during this time will impact whether they do business with those companies in the future. Now, if we don’t speak up, that in itself speaks volumes.

Today’s customer needs to know where we stand on the real-life issues that our world faces. If we fail to provide them with clarity, they’ll go elsewhere and find someone who does. 

Now, social platforms and email lists are personal ways to reinforce our organization’s position on current events. We can leverage these mediums to be upfront and honest. If there are challenges you are facing within your operation due to the current climate, be honest. 

Staff reductions, lack of stock or customer service availability are all common issues. Now is the time to humanize our companies. Today’s consumer is not only more forgiving of those brands who are working towards a change, but they’re also actively seeking out brands who are unapologetically honest with their current state and where they are going. Flawed is the new perfect.  

Related: Why Business Owners Need to Show Employees It’s Okay Not to Be Okay

How we communicate with our team

According to a 2020 Gallup report, U.S. remote work jumped to 62%, up from 31% before the pandemic. Because many of us no longer work from physical locations, the way we communicate with our team has never been more vital. Today, leaders need to lead with empathy, vulnerability, patience, humility and generosity

Stress and anxiety are at all-time highs for many, so giving our team verbal permission to go easy on themselves can significantly ease unneeded tensions. If we have surrounded ourselves with high-performers, they will likely strive to produce at the same output level as before the pandemic. However, this mentality can quickly lead to burnout. 

The Census Bureau recently reported that one-third of Americans have displayed clinical signs of anxiety and depression since the pandemic began. We’re in a once-in-a-century challenge, so as leaders, it’s crucial we pay close attention to how everyone interacts with each other daily. A little can tell a lot.

In one-on-one meetings, aim to keep the conversation focused more on providing support. I start all of my meetings with a very honest, “So, how are you doing?” or “How are you feeling?” By showing empathy for everyone’s potential stress levels. we will continually build trust and keep everyone engaged. 

Related: 19 Self-Care Accessories to Help You Into the New Year

How we take care of ourselves

Self-care has never been more important than it is right now. When tasked with running a business and leading a team of people during a global crisis, hours of operation can easily bleed into the quiet hours of the night. 

Too many nights with little sleep will affect your mental and physical health. Now that we’re working from home, an evening routine to transition from work-brain to home-brain is a must.

Meditation is a great way to start the wind-down process from your day. Even five minutes with your eyes closed while you focus on controlling your breath is a great way to relax into your evening. If meditation isn’t for you, end the day by going for a walk, or run yourself a bath. Find something to help you transition from work to rest.

This should go without saying, but make sure to eat a real dinner. I know that adults are reading this, but it’s far too easy to keep the computer open and graze throughout the evening. Eight hours of sleep should be mandatory to sustain effectiveness, so call it quits at a reasonable time and live to work another day. As the saying goes, put on your oxygen mask before assisting others. If you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be able to perform your best for your company and the people you serve.

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