How Corona forces managers to step up as true leaders and why this sudden change in management practices might be a blessing

How Corona forces managers to step up as true leaders and why this sudden change in management practices might be a blessing

17 May 2020
Gerrit Sarens
Gerrit Sarens
  • Over the last few years we’ve talked a lot about a VUCA-world: volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. Those terms define the uncertainty of corporate life in the 21st century. Corona is definitely a VUCA ‘smack in the face’ - an uppercut that nobody was prepared for.

    However, every crisis brings opportunities as well. The opportunity for managers now is to ditch oldschool management and take up true leadership that focuses on humans. Leaders grow people, managers manage tasks. Those managers that are able to reinvent themselves will help their company and their colleagues to get the best out of this lockdown period and are prepared to tackle the post-Corona era.

  • Rethinking leadership, collaboration and coaching for a remote workforce.

  • This new way of working will probably be the new normal in the ‘post-corona’ era: more remote, more flexible and completely trust-based. Bye bye micro management!

    For managers who normally share an office with their team, this can present new challenges. A sudden change in the practice of management can be hard on managers. They may worry about disruptions to the workflow they're accountable for. Some may feel they have to be physically present to be good coaches, unsure that they can engage workers from a distance.

    In this article we provide you no-nonsense advice on how to keep your people engaged from a distance.

  • A guide to building trust and engagement outside the traditional office structure.

  • I’d love to help out by detailing “The 3 C’s of building trust and engagement”: Connect - Communicate - Clarity. Those were always important but the importance is bigger than ever in times of remote work.

    • Connect to the human behind the screen. Empathy is key. How is the individual feeling? What’s their personal situation and how does it impact their work? Consequently, individualize your management. Start with the human. I know, we’re talking mostly about remote working technologies - but it’s people first in this regard.
    • Communicate continuously. High performance coaching requires frequent conversations. And those won’t happen at the coffee machine anymore. Leaders need to communicate both on work topics and on human topics. Silence often results in isolation. This in turn leads to disconnect and disengagement. Maybe you could think of organizing a virtual meeting every single day to kick-start the day.
    • Clarity: set clear expectations and goals from the start. After all, without the boundaries that office life provides, the go-getters on your team may have never-ending workdays while others just do a lot less. A good practice in this respect is to visualize progress and results through dashboards. This lowers the possibility of blaming and judging. As we all know, blaming and judging is never a good way to build trust. This last one is what we need the most in terms of uncertainty.
  • We’re all in this together. What’s your advice? Where’s your struggle?

  • As we’re all in this together, I believe we all need to help each other out. Hence I’m looking forward to your tips, questions and suggestions. Feel free to share them in the comments.

Struggles of a manager

Managers are

  • not or inadequately trained in this role


    • lack self-confidence
    • don’t know how to go from being a colleague to being a boss
    • need to loosen up on the command & control leadership style
    • must let go of the (technical) expert status
    • cannot give or accept constructive feedback
    • feel pressure to perform as manager
    • have difficulty building relationships
    • want to be liked by everyone or want to be the ‘bad boss’
    • play the hero
  • are struggling


    • stay too involved in operations
    • have trouble prioritizing
    • cannot delegate
    • fear conflict situations
    • disconnect from the team
    • deal with flawed strategic thinking
    • do not relate to higher management
    • lack clear communication skills
    • remain not self-aware
    • avoid difficult conversations
    • miss political antennas
    • ...
  • capable of more


    • need mental preparation as successor
    • need to be able to lead big changes ahead
    • need to learn to be emotionally resilient and in control
    • need to learn to make big decisions fast without all the information
    • must become persuasive presenters
    • need to learn how to cultivate their own personal brand
    • need to learn how to lead by example
    • manage by trust, not by fear
    • need to overly develop empathy
    • ...
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