When researchers and commentators talk about Climate Change, they often use the analogy of the frog sitting in a pan of slowly boiling water, not realizing the extreme danger it is in until it is too late.
With coronavirus, it is as if we have all been thrown into giant vat of boiling water and we have had no choice but to recognize and confront the immediate Crisis. Not just to our health but to our work and our whole way of life.
Now, after nearly fourth months of combatting the virus here in Rwanda, many professionals have been able to move from that initial state of shock, panic and fear into some kind of uneasy acceptance. The main challenge going forward will be Uncertainty.
“Most people would rather know for certain that they’re going to get an electric shock than to not be able to predict it”, according to a study in Nature Communications in 2016.
And this Uncertainty is likely to continue for at least another year until an effective vaccine is developed, approved, manufactured and distributed around the world.
As such, both established and emerging leaders are now being called upon to respond to these ongoing challenges in a different manner.
President Paul Kagame told new senior government leaders on 1 June: “Difficult times such as these make your work even more challenging. It requires us to work in unconventional ways.”
When the Coronavirus first hit Rwanda in mid-March, this columnist came up with a list of eight keys to decisive leadership in a Crisis:
- 1. Stay healthy
- 2. Role model healthy behaviours
- 3. Project calm, dignity, authority and focus
- 4. Communicate openly and regularly
- 5. Show genuine empathy
- 6. Demonstrate flexibility and agility
- 7. Make tough decisions
- 8. Take tough action
These guidelines are certainly still valid for the current Crisis and they now need to be supplemented to prepare for the uncertain future.
“As we adapt to the New Normal, individual resilience will be very significant,” says Holly Irasubiza, Senior Officer for Learning and Development at the National Bank of Rwanda. “While leaders are expected to remain at the top to lead and make appropriate decisions in such a challenging time, being human, they are also affected by the current situation to some extent. Thus they need to build their personal resilience.”
This personal resilience can be broken down into five key areas of “Self-Leadership”:
1. Self Awareness
To remain self-aware, leaders to take the time to reflect and assess how they are doing. More specifically, they need to ask themselves some tough questions about their role and performance in the Crisis so far and what they might face them in the future:
- How am I doing right now on a personal, human level?
- How have I performed as a leader in this crisis so far?
- What have I learned from this time of Crisis and Uncertainty?
- What have I done well?
- What could I have done better?
- What am I carrying forward with me into the next phase?
- What am I leaving behind?
- What will be my biggest opportunity/-ies going forward?
- What will be my biggest challenge/s going forward?
- What will success look like for me?
Self-fullness is not the same as ego, selfishness and self-centredness, according to small business owner, Saleem Assaf. It is like putting your mask on first in an airplane emergency. Make sure that you are meeting your needs before you try to help others meet theirs. Above all, reduce unnecessary stress and distraction by building up your physical health, emotional strength and psychological well-being.
3. Self Confidence
Invest in and empower yourself by focusing on the positive. What are your superpowers? Recognize your natural talents and learned skills. Explore both your realised and under-utilised strengths. Admit but don’t spend too much time on your weaknesses unless they are hampering your progress.
4. Self Control
Remember the Serenity Prayer and be aware of what you can and can’t control. Accept your limitations with dignity and calm. Focus on what you can do. Create a vision board for the future. Set SMART goals. Be aware of the potential risks and pitfalls. Marshall the resources to be prepared.
5. Self Determination
Plan as much as you can and then dare to act boldly. Be flexible and agile at all times, especially in this uncertain environment. Be prepared for frustration, setbacks, failure and course changes. Maintain full integrity and accountability for your actions. Celebrate your successes and learn from your mistakes.
The next column will explore how leaders can prepare others for the New Normal, If you want to comment on this column or any other related issue, please send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The views expressed in this column are those of the writer.