The leadership qualities we need during a crisis: Russell Reynolds' Nick Chia
Leadership StrategiesLeadershipBoard and CEO Advisory
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May 04, 2020
Leadership StrategiesLeadershipBoard and CEO Advisory
Companies today look less for a leader that can predict the future, but one who can flex between different situations and navigate any environment with ease.

People Matters

The People Matters article, "The leadership qualities we need during a crisis: Russell Reynolds' Nick Chia," quoted Russell Reynolds Associates Consultant Nick Chia on how times of crisis change the definition of good leadership, as well as the kind of C-level talent organizations require for post-pandemic recovery. The article is excerpted below. 


People Matters asked Nick for his thoughts on how times of crisis change our definition of good leadership, and what kind of C-level talent organizations are going to be looking for now and as they plan for the post-pandemic recovery. Here are the highlights of the conversation. 


Now, with COVID-19, you see some companies having almost daily calls to figure out what they are doing next. To consistently do that day in and day out, over an extended period of time, means that not only must your mental health be good, you must also be physically capable of withstanding that. Leaders burn out, like everybody else, and with a situation like COVID-19, that has no visible end point, it's crucial to find ways to rest and rejuvenate yourself. 


More and more, we are finding that our clients are looking less at predicting the environment. They are instead saying: "Regardless of the environment, I want a leader who can flex between the different situation and, like a helicopter, move from a big-picture approach all the way down to the ground level and back up again." These are what we call competing competencies. 


Yes and no. I think in situations where boards are impatient, they will change the leader just to signal that they are doing something. However, the flip side of this crisis is that some companies are trying to do more with what they have. Because how do you bring someone on board and integrate them without ever meeting them? Right now, the uncertainty is such that even if you recruit someone, you cannot even be sure when they will be able to show up and start work, let alone how they will observe the culture and integrate when no one is physically in the office. That is setting too high a bar for a newcomer. 

Therefore, companies are saying: let's take a closer look at the people we already have. Even if they are not ready, they may be close enough—and that means, the trade-offs are manageable. Perhaps you have a very operational person already in place, and you can pair the person with someone who is more strategic as a deputy. Or you can identify several people with potential and put them through an accelerated 12-month development program with coaching, interventions, and anything else they need, and at least one of them will be suitable at the end of the program. 


Coming out of COVID-19 will require a set of skills that no one can really say they have proven. It's going to be a risk looking for talent outside the organization, it's going to be a risk looking for talent internally, and the question is how to mitigate that risk. We're spending a lot of time right now helping boards and CEOs think through this. Don't forget that succession planning costs money. Recruiting people costs money, developing and assessing them costs money. The question is, which is the better return on investment? It's never obvious, and it comes down to what an organization's particular needs are. 

To read the full article, click here.