3 leadership qualities all business owners should have to be successful during a tumultuous economy

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Leaders should set clear goals and be flexible to change during the pandemic.

  • Being a business leader during tumultuous times like the COVID-19 pandemic is no small feat.
  • During uncertainty, leaders should be purpose-driven and able to pivot easily to accommodate change. 
  • Leaders should also practice decisiveness, authenticity, and compassion to guide their employees successfully. 
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Before the COVID-19 pandemic upended the world, businesses were already becoming more accustomed to dealing with uncertainty. The geopolitical landscape was as tumultuous as it had been in many years, rocked by an erratic US administration and Brexit-induced volatility, and digital disruption was condemning a growing number of longstanding incumbents in numerous sectors to the graveyard, having failed to evolve.

Coronavirus, of course, amplified uncertainty by an order of magnitude no living business executive had experienced before, but that doesn’t change the reality that leaders were having to adapt at an unprecedented pace even before COVID-19 exhausted the use of the word ‘unprecedented.’ This means it is foolish for any company to assume it will revert to a state of blissful stability and clarity when the pandemic finally concludes, whenever that may be.  

Instead, it will have served as the latest, albeit the most extreme, example of uncertainty in a much wider period in which such an environment became the operational norm. Succeeding during a time when cycles of change are rapidly accelerated and strategic outlooks much shorter, requires a more fluid approach to leadership. While some leaders have risen to the challenge during the pandemic, others have been exposed for lacking the skills and behaviors that distinguish their more successful contemporaries.

What are those skills and behaviors? Three core attributes define the new breed of thriving business leaders in this age of perennial disruption, in which vital decision-making increasingly has to be based on limited reliable data. Given leaders represent their company’s culture and values, these attributes also speak more widely about how organizations can prosper through not just the new normal but the next one too. 

Agility

Spoiled by the user experience they enjoy on their smartphones and social networks, customers’ expectations have catapulted over the last decade across all manner of products and services. In this landscape, leaders didn’t require a global pandemic to teach them just how important agility now is to businesses, but needless to say, it has accelerated the need.

When leaders faced challenges in previous generations, most of the time, they were able to turn to a well-established playbook for dealing with them, based on prior experience. However, there can be no playbook for the unprecedented, so leaders have been forced to chart their own course. Agility underpins true resilience, and it can’t be taught on an MBA course.

Few leaders are excellent at both strategy and execution, which is fine, but agility does require the ability to switch seamlessly between the two. Crucially, agility is not simply the preserve of great leadership today – it absolutely must be ingrained throughout the organization.

Agility is often wrongfully associated exclusively with digitization, yet it is not a technology. It’s a mentality. Our responsibility as leaders is to find the right balance between embracing the digital age and preserving the traditional values underpinning the fabric of our business and personal relationships for centuries. 

Purpose

It’s not only a pre-crisis desire for agility that has gained pace during the pandemic but also purpose-driven leadership and ESG issues. During times of difficulty or uncertainty, customers reward brands that behave fairly, ethically, and increasingly wish to purchase from brands that align with their own personal values. Therefore, leading with a social conscience will make businesses and their people more resilient to disruption.

Driving strong financial results for a business during periods of uncertainty is difficult enough, but doing so while also satisfying a much wider breadth of stakeholders, including employees, minority communities, and even the environment, is truly a leadership art form.

While remaining true to the socially-driven company mission and values they have defined, those that do so will be on the strongest footing for success in the years ahead, as customers gravitate to trustful and transparent brands, which inspires me to create The Bruno Effect. The best leaders view transparency not as a barrier but as a real opportunity to connect with staff and customers on a deeper level. 

Authenticity

The best leadership amidst uncertainty and disruption is underpinned by honesty, humility, and an unwavering commitment to really living the company’s values. In this environment, people respond positively to a personal, authentic leadership style, which requires great communication, a strong moral compass, mental agility, consistency – and even more transparency.

More than ever, businesses need calm and compassionate leadership and decisiveness, even when insights to inform decisions are lacking. One of the biggest challenges facing leaders in the post-crisis business world will be inspiring workforces to buy-in to the company’s mission. It’ll require the courage to boldly reset or pivot strategy, culture, and processes when confronted with evidence of change or underperformance.

Authentic leaders, who engage well with their growing array of stakeholders, should aim at evolution, not revolution, in their approach to leadership. The pandemic aligned everyone’s attention on a single objective, but the number of so-called strategic imperatives at a company can multiply outside such times of crisis, resulting in a lack of focus. It falls to leaders to ensure their organization is united behind a clear vision and common set of goals.

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From being called ‘bossy’ to becoming the boss: 7 leadership lessons from successful women doctors

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(L-R) Dr. Peggy Taylor, Dr. Ouida Collins, and Dr. Mary Manis.

When I was in elementary school, all of my grade cards came back with great scores and really positive comments. However, there always was the one little comment “She’s too bossy and overly talkative.”

Darian Dozier
Darian Dozier.

I had a big personality and used that to my advantage from a young age. Interestingly enough, as I transitioned into high school, my grade cards began to read “She’s a great leader and has great class participation.” 

I wondered if my “bossiness” and excessive talking had become more direct and efficient, or if I was just perceived differently by elementary school teachers versus high school teachers. I’ll never know, but one thing I do know is the detrimental effects that the word “bossy” can have on a young girl. 

It’s discouraging to young ladies and makes them feel as if they cannot be assertive. How can girls aspire to be politicians, lawyers, and judges if we shoot down their leadership traits from the very beginning? Several women leaders in medicine spoke with me about their “bossy” experiences, and how they’ve learned to use this trait successfully throughout their careers.

1. Assertive women may have to make adjustments to earn respect

“I had to learn how to lower the tone of my voice and smile more to not come off as controlling,” said Dr. Sharon Gustowski

Dr. Sharon Gustowski
Dr. Sharon Gustowski.

Gustowski is an osteopathic doctor based in Houston, Texas who is certified in neuromusculoskeletal and osteopathic manipulative medicine.

As a young child, she was independent and assertive, which helped her to gain the respect and trust of her elders who felt comfortable leaning on her for more responsibilities. As doctor however, she felt this trait and the way she carried herself alienated her peers, because it seemed she came off as snobby and unfriendly.

To offset these perceptions, she made adjustments to her tone and mannerisms so she was more inviting. Constantly being aware of your delivery can be exhausting, but she said it felt like she had to do it to earn respect and not be ostracized. 

As a current medical student, Gustowski’s account helped me understand that assertive women may have to adjust facial expressions, hand movements, volume, and tone to be heard in male certain dominated atmospheres. Without these adjustments, their colleagues may get caught up in the delivery and not the message which hinders progress, which could create strain and frustration.   

2. Becoming a leader comes with growing pains

The road to becoming a good leader isn’t straight and easy. In fact, becoming a leader will probably include quite a few setbacks before successes. Dr. Candace Walkley, an internal medicine physician based in Conroe, Texas, has experienced being “bossier than her boss.”

Dr. Candace Walkley
Dr. Candace Walkley.

Her assertive personality is either perceived as go getter or too assertive. Being a go-getter creates great work relationships, but being “too assertive” can create tension which can interfere with communication and expectations. 

Walkley refers to her assertiveness as “the sword with two sides.” These experiences have helped her shape her leadership skills to better assess and control herself in interactions, but not without a few bumps in the road with coworkers and colleagues.

Read more: PwC’s chief inclusion officer shares how the company developed a new toolkit to promote allyship in the workplace

3. Great leaders are great listeners 

A leader is nothing without a team behind them. The best way to gain a team’s trust and get them to work hard is to listen more than one speaks. This is especially important when working in the medical field because of all the different teams and personnel that could be working one case. Without hearing what they have to say, a leader won’t be very successful. 

Dr. Peggy Taylor is an OBGYN who ran her own practice for years before eventually selling it to retire. She now teaches and picks up shifts when needed. 

Dr. Peggy Taylor
Dr. Peggy Taylor.

Although considered bossy by some when opening her own practice, she said she “never wanted to be seen as really my way or the highway. I took more of a teamwork approach: I know I’m the leader and I make the final decision, but I want their input.” 

Taylor says she put in the extra effort to make her employees feel respected and heard, and she listened to their suggestions and implemented them when they were appropriate.

4. Assertiveness is necessary in serious situations

As physicians, these women are not just responsible for day to day operations. They are responsible for human lives, which means, occasionally, that assertiveness is absolutely necessary. 

“I try to only bring this trait out in its full glory when I’m supervising people or when a situation is clearly dangerously chaotic – where a leader must emerge for safety,” said Walkley. 

Taylor also put patients at the front of the helm when it came time to be the boss. She made decisions that her staff did not always like, but at the end of the day, they benefited the patients. 

There are times to be laid back, but when serious decisions have to be made about someone’s health, these bosses in medicine know how to get the job done. Gustowski learned to fully accept this duality of silliness and seriousness in the job, and when to switch back and forth. The ability to turn it on and off is powerful in a job where things can go from good to bad in the blink of an eye. 

5. Good leaders care and create lasting relationships 

The fun part about being a good leader is being able to create long-lasting relationships with employees. However, this only happens when employees feel like they matter and physicians care about them as people. 

Women leaders in medicine may have an advantage because many are natural nurturers at home and in society, and bring that attribute to work.

Dr. Mary Manis, a family medicine doctor in Conroe, Texas, made sure to keep up with her employees by asking them about their families and personal details they shared with her. This helped her develop relationships that lasted far beyond any work situation. 

Dr. Mary Manis
Dr. Mary Manis.

Taylor kept the same staff for over 20 years because she created such a family friendly environment.

As a mom, she understood the stressors of having children and allowed employees to bring their children to work when they were not able to go to school. Small acts like these help create fulfilling, long-lasting bonds between boss and employee.

Read more: How 4 wedding planners are prepping for the future of the events industry, from getting ordained to rejiggering seating charts to negotiating vendor contracts 

6. More women leaders means more women mentors

“I would’ve loved to have found a woman boss or mentor, but that never happened,” said Manis. 

While she did have a great relationship with a former male mentor and boss, Manis says it was disappointing to not find a woman boss to support her during her medical career. 

As a medical student myself, I’m fortunate enough to have

Manis, among many other women, as my mentors. I hope that as more women enter medicine and learn the same lessons as the women in this article, they too can find and be a mentor to other women leaders in medicine. 

7. Leadership skills can emerge at any point in life

Dr. Ouida Collins, a family medicine physician in Conroe, Texas, has been an introvert her entire life. Still, she says there were times early in her medical education journey when she had to be vocal and assertive. 

Dr. Ouida Collins
Dr. Ouida Collins.

“What made me stand up a little more is in a couple of classes, if you were a woman or didn’t fit the characteristics of those in leadership positions, they kind of pushed you to the side,” Collins said. “I was working on a project with another guy in the group and he told me ‘you need to do this’ and that and I said, ‘no, I don’t.’ That’s not how this works. That was the beginning of the pushback.” 

Women in medicine often deal with being silenced or pushed aside in such a male-dominated arena. Patients may think they are the nurse and some male counterparts don’t respect them the same way as male physicians. But, no matter how old you are or your personality type, when it’s time to speak up for what’s right, you have to. 

At the end of the day, Collins always had her paperwork in order and did her job, which gave her the confidence to assert herself regardless how others reacted to her firmness. She too has learned to tailor her leadership skills and always falls back on doing what’s right for her and her patients. 

Disclaimer: These views and opinions are of the individual physicians and the writer and in no way representative of their employers.

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