Lead with compassion
With Bulelani Balabala, founder of Township Entrepreneurs Alliance (TEA)
For Bulelani Balabala, remote leadership is all about care and compassion. ‘In terms of the role I play at our non-profit organisation, the Covid-19 lockdown has moved me away from asking my team about work – because there’s no work to ask about – and more towards checking up on them to find out how they’re doing,’ he says. ‘And not just how they’re doing but also how their families are doing.
My team needs assurance and comfort, and leadership in terms of how they deal with this crisis. I find that I am now also coaching them on their mindset and coping with the situation while at home.’
Despite the physical distance, Balabala says these contact sessions are helping to build the TEA culture. ‘I have to spend time listening to the guys and talking to them about their businesses and what they stand for,’ he says.
‘But I also found that talking to them about themselves personally, and what their needs are – spiritually and emotionally – goes a long way to building our relationships.’
Be sure to stay in touch with your teams
With Allon Raiz, founder and CEO of Raizcorp
At a time like this, the worst leader is an absent leader. Therefore Allon Raiz, whose Raizcorp business incubator supports hundreds of entrepreneurs, takes care to be as present as he can be under the circumstances.
‘There are about 160 people in my organisation, and every evening I do an EFA – Email From Allon – so that my staff get communication about what’s going on. I hold the role of communicator, and our leadership is more aligned than ever.’
The key, then, lies in regular (but not overwhelming) contact. Raiz checks in with his leadership team every morning and evening. ‘I asked them if they wanted to drop it, and all of them, without fail, said they liked the check-ins as a way to start and end the day,’ he says.
‘The whole thing cascades down and my team leaders also have daily check-ins with their teams. In a weird way there’s more communication and we’re more productive now.’
He says, ‘Our daily meetings are voice only, and then on Fridays we enable video. Everybody’s so excited to see one another! We each get a drink – some have wine, some have fruit juice – and do a bit of socialising and laughing.’
Also read Allon Raiz’s advice to small businesses on how to identify opportunities for after the lockdown.
Empower your teams to lead
With Bryan Hattingh, CEO of exponential leadership firm Cycan
‘What’s the most important thing to do right now?’ Bryan Hattingh asks, rhetorically. ‘Prioritisation is extremely important, because people are in panic and they might not be making the best decisions. As a leader you need to help them to stop, pause and reflect.’
Of the various leadership styles – autocratic, participative, transactional, transformational, and so on – transformational leadership is widely recognised as the most effective. But is it the most appropriate during a time of unprecedented crisis? ‘Sometimes autocratic leadership – the “command and control” model – is the most effective,’ he admits, but as for himself, he’s still sold on the transformational style.
‘Ironically, one of the pioneers of transformational leadership was the US Army. You’d expect the military to be all about command and control, but in recent years they’ve realised that they need their soldiers to make their own calls in certain situations in war zones like Iraq and Afghanistan. You’ve got to empower your people to – when necessary – make the right calls.’
To listen to Bryan Hattingh discuss the importance of leading yourself before leading others, click through to our free podcast.
‘As a leader, you should always remember what makes up a team. We understand kids will invade video calls from time to time.’ – Andy Hadfield
Make sure your people are okay
With Andy Hadfield, CEO of corporate volunteering NGO Forgood
At the heart of the new way of working lies an understanding that people are human and making sure that your people are okay first – and that those pets and children will therefore crop up in your team meetings.
‘As a leader, you should always remember what makes up a team,’ laughs Andy Hadfield. ‘We understand kids will invade video calls from time to time. But first, make sure your people are okay.’
Hadfield does that by holding a weekly Friday afternoon Happy Hour Hangout on Google Hangouts. ‘We all have it down for 3pm in our diaries, and everybody grabs a drink and tries to not talk about work,’ he says. ‘For 30 minutes we chat and see what crazy stuff has been happening. We share pictures, memes, that kind of stuff. It’s a way of not losing touch with our humanity.’
Mark van Dijk
An award-winning writer who has written for publications ranging from Sports Illustrated to the official magazine of the JSE.