Date posted: 30/07/2020 5 min read

What’s your COVID-19 management style?

Mark LeBusque, author of Being Human, details four management styles popping up regularly during the pandemic.

In Brief

  • Different crisis situations demand different leadership styles.
  • The SuperHuman management style involves quick decision-making and working long hours.
  • The Human management style, typified by Jacinda Ardern, puts the human before the output.

Mark LeBusque

In my first book, Being Human, I shared six management styles that I’ve witnessed across 20-plus years in the business world. But over the past few months of the pandemic, I’ve noticed four leadership styles that have emerged in various forms. And it begs the question: Why did it take a pandemic to make us (and our leaders) human?

“It begs the question: Why did it take a pandemic to make us (and our leaders) human?”
Mark LeBusque

SuperHuman – Short-term 24/7 bursts

There are times when it’s just “go, go, go”. Crisis has hit. People are craving direction, order and protection. You are working ultra-long hours, coordinating resources to the second. You are facing significant challenges without historical fixes. You’re making quick decisions on limited information in limited time frames and just keeping up with the minute-by-minute change.

This could be any prime minister, president or elected official, including Australia’s PM Scott Morrison.

Have you noticed how tired many of them are looking? It’s worth thinking in these times that they are also human beings and experience stress and symptoms of burnout the same way we mere mortals do. It’s easy to throw stones right now but is that useful?

Human – Emotionally invested and human focus first

We humans need to feel connected and have a sense of belonging. This is particularly so in times of constant stress. What’s emerged during COVID-19 is an ability to see the human before the output. You’re letting people know that you are with them, looking through their eyes and standing in their shoes.

This is empathy not sympathy. It’s all about asking people “how are you feeling?” before going into a load of detail that dots the i’s and crosses the t’s.

All leaders should look to put this style at the top of their list and have it as their default. New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern has role modelled the human way of leadership and not just during the pandemic.

Pushover – Like being liked

As a social species we want to be popular, to be liked and fit in. But this can work against you in a crisis if it’s perceived you’re doing what people like and will make you popular instead of what is needed.

Avoiding unpopular decisions and managing by consensus may see you dubbed a “soft touch”.

Some of Australia’s state premiers and their stances on reopening borders come to mind as I’m penning this article. Are they doing this to stir up state parochialism and remain electable? Only time will tell the success of their strategies.

Robotic – Absolutely follow the rulebook

There are times when process, policies and procedures must be followed to the letter of the law. As much as there’s a level of monotony to this style of management, it has been critical in the early phases of the pandemic.

Who knew of our various national and state chief medical officers before March 2020? We all know them by name now.

Analysing the data, communicating the why, advising government officials who then carefully plan a response is what we’ve seen Brendan Murphy in Australia and Ashley Bloomfield in New Zealand do in this time.

It’s not sexy or at times popular work, but sometimes that’s what it takes to demonstrate leadership. The robotic approach has certainly helped in flattening the COVID-19 curve across most of our region and averted a far worse situation.

Let’s not go backwards

Life during COVID-19 has shone a spotlight on the way that humans interact and the way we manage in times of crisis.

I’m sure we’ve both surprised ourselves and been surprised by how others have been able to adapt. We may have even seen new leadership emerge from where we never thought it possible.

The key now is to not go backwards and settle on one style.

A combination of styles and knowing when to step into them will bring us all out the other side in a much better position.

Mark LeBusque is a speaker, author, podcaster, coach/mentor, facilitator and creator of the Humannovation Challenge.

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