Has the impact of the pandemic on leaders been considered enough? It may create the impetus for change.

Over the last few weeks, we have written much about the importance of developing talent but the question that also needs to be asked is, how will leaders too emerge from this period?

It has been a bitter time for many leaders too who have seen their businesses fall by anything from 50% to 98% in turnover. Some of the collapse in figures have been astounding and deeply saddening, and of course, there is so little most can do to combat the collapses. As one MD joked “ I think I would rather be in the ring with Mike Tyson with my hands tied behind my back. I reckon I would have better odds as at least I can run and head-butt”.

Many are feeling deep levels of sadness and guilt. They understand that they can do little to control events but they are seeing many good people lose their jobs and understand what this brings with it in terms of anxiety, home pressures and insecurity.

How the pandemic will potentially impact on leaders is arguably one of the least considered major factors. Yes, there are a number of reports noting that over 50% are struggling with stress from the burden of the pandemic and that 60% feel ill-prepared but all this is natural. The real discussion is on how it may well change the views of leaders in how they manage a business in future.

Yesterday we wrote about some economists arguing that business needs to find a better balance in how it behaves between providing good shareholder returns and playing a central role in society and with its people. This discussion reflects the FT’s own campaign launched in 2019, “Capitalism Reset”, but maybe the greatest catalyst for change will be through how leaders re-emerge from this period?

The guilt noted above, the sadness many feels will have a long-lasting impact. The reports about how leaders are struggling are now of less importance than what happens next. Some will endure, some will fall. How will this period change the way they view business and their role as leaders?

The strong odds are that it could well reflect the period that follows World War Two which did result in one of the most caring and socially conscience of periods. Companies gained from their leaders returning from the war with greater compassion and understanding of people allied with stronger organizational skills. This period saw a new Government found the NHS and many employees becoming having one company careers and with companies playing serious roles within communities.

Many argue that most leaders will simply be tasked with recouping the losses and providing strong shareholder returns. This may be true but the odds also strongly suggest that leaders will also want to see the change being urged by the FT, by economists and commentators and maybe, for them, most importantly by their own values. Many will want to see jobs creation, people being re-employed and a stronger society coming together.

Many will have learnt much during this period and will have placed their own agendas to one side as they seek to play leadership roles which place people back at the top of the board agenda.

If true, it does show that all the debates and arguments in the world will not create real change but that change is generated from personal experiences, tests and hardship.