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Leadership in 2022 and beyond: Disrupted and stronger

Every leader has a unique way of handling a crisis – and what differentiates good leaders from others is the way they lead in times of adversity, turn obstacles into opportunities, and navigate the way ahead for their workforce.

Sometimes in adversity, leadership can be in a crisis too.

By Rahul Garg, 

One of the leaders I have greatly admired is the late former prime minister Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri who was not only a phenomenal global leader but was also known for employing humility and good governance in his playbook to bring many structural reforms in the Indian economy and lead the way for India in times of crisis. 

Every leader has a unique way of handling a crisis – and what differentiates good leaders from others is the way they lead in times of adversity, turn obstacles into opportunities, and navigate the way ahead for their workforce. 

But it’s easier said than done. 

Sometimes in adversity, leadership can be in a crisis too. 

Lessons from the pandemic

Over the last decade, leaders and their businesses have had to manage several economic, health and environmental challenges and their impact on employees and work. They have had to hone their skills and update their own strategy for tackling large, complex, and unprecedented problems. 

The last two years have been testimony that global leaders have tried every tool in the belt to tackle the unprecedented crises that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought with it. However, the supply chain crisis, for the uninitiated, was still a bolt from the blue. As it unfolded quickly around us, halting production and bringing fundamental shifts in consumer behavior – it  also toppled leaders, companies and countries in the process. Three key behaviours were shown by leaders who were able to meet the challenges head on and thrive in adversity.

Adapt and Evolve

India, which did not manufacture personal protective equipment (PPE), went from just three lakh PPE kits in January 2020 to becoming the world’s second-largest PPE manufacturer, producing 450,000 units daily within a year. As the demand for PPE skyrocketed, Indian businesses leaned on innovative approaches to repurpose their own production lines to meet this excessive demand and ensure business continuity. While a number of alcohol manufacturers set up labs to manufacture sanitizers, some textile manufacturers repurposed their factories to churn out protective gear. This adaptive approach to leadership displayed by Indian manufacturers allowed them to understand the risks quickly, reduce dependence on external procurement, and emerge profitable. 

Empathize and Nurture

Nurturing employee well-being also became critical to developing workplace resilience. Even when the pandemic ruptured our personal lives and health, proactive leaders were busy developing remote workflows and setting up flexible working environments to create clear and frequent lines of communication. Sharing tales of courage and countless stories of kindness rekindled hope and faith among employees while monthly meetings, informal virtual connect sessions and mental health programs created a positive momentum on overall employee wellbeing in the hybrid working model. 

Find a way to give back

Serving communities in their greatest need and providing access to timely and accurate information was the only way for organizations, startups, corporates, and individuals to rally together to ensure that they are doing their bit. In April 2021, when the oxygen crisis took centerstage and we lost loved ones both in the workplace and at home, leaders who pushed themselves in the thick of the crisis worked to ensure the availability of oxygen concentrators and save as many lives as possible. 

Hire and grow the leaders of tomorrow

As we approach the end of another gruelling year, we observe the demand for greater and faster digital penetration in the manufacturing ecosystem in 2022. There is also an urgent need to craft next-gen supply chain solutions to ensure better efficiency and visibility for informed decision-making.

Even before the pandemic, manufacturing enterprises were already preparing their organizations for a digital push to make their supply chains more agile and transparent. The pandemic accelerated the digitization initiatives within manufacturing organizations to make their systems more resilient for the future.

Using a people-problem fit approach, which requires leaders to identify the right skill fit for solving an organizational problem, ensures the success of both the individual and the organization. Leaders can hire/choose the right talent and groom them in a combination of analytical, communication and social skills. These are the areas that high-potential talent need to focus on to keep growing. 

Harnessing the skills of your workforce as well as hiring core talent across technology, business and leadership roles will be crucial for building great products and solutions for customers and partners in 2022. 

Building a future-ready business 

Make products that your customers want and will need in the future. Innovation will be key to lead this transformation. For businesses to scale further in the post-pandemic environment, leaders will be required to employ strategic levers which will drive the maximum impact required for the business to thrive. They will need to experiment small and scale big, making sure the budgets are being utilized in the right way. They will have to get creative and explore newer distribution channels, tap into their network, and be unafraid to disrupt or get disrupted. Only then will we emerge stronger and lead the way for a revitalized supply chain business and leadership in 2022.

(The author is CEO & Founder, Moglix. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the Financial Express Online.)

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