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Being the Leader Your Employees Deserve During Uncertain Times

  • Organizational behavior professors at Stanford University offer tips on the “hallmarks of great leadership” during crises
  • Advice follows extensive research on how leaders build on successful performances and how companies have handled difficult situations
  • Compassion, stepping up to difficult tasks, and looking for opportunity in crisis are among the best strategies

One of the many challenges facing business owners during the COVID-19 pandemic has been how to be a strong leader during the unprecedented crisis. Business owners and company leaders have to reassure their employees as they guide their business through the current situation, but sometimes have to make tough calls such as reducing staff or wages in order for the company to remain solvent.

Robert I. Sutton and Hayagreeva “Huggy” Rao, organizational behavior professors with the Stanford Graduate School of Business, recently addressed this subject with a webinar entitled “How to Be a Good Boss During Trying Times.” The professors have spent seven years researching how business leaders have built on successful performances as their company grows, and have also examined dozens of companies to see how they handle crises ranging from natural disasters to ethics scandals.

Sutton and Rao advise that business leaders should not pass the buck on difficult tasks, such as announcing layoffs, during a crisis. Other tips include being compassionate when such decisions need to be made, and creating a more predictable and less stressful environment if possible.

The professors also advise that leaders can find opportunities in crises, such as looking for new market demands and addressing them. Leaders can also encourage employees to share criticisms and different ways of doing things.

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