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Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Executive Checklist

It is Time for Top Leadership to Step-Up

We must seize the remarkable opportunity that has presented itself during this global health crisis and work to become the Greatest Generation 2.0

Consider the actions that Salesforce’s Marc Benioff took at the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis – calling for other CEOs to take a 90-day “no layoff pledge” in response to already accelerating unemployment rate. Besides demonstrating a commitment to attending to the welfare of his people, Benioff took the lead in setting a tone for other leaders to follow. As business leaders, we need to take more of this type of proactive leadership right now.

Yes, it is carpe diem time. We, as a community of top business leaders, must seize the remarkable opportunity that has presented itself through these most challenging and uncertain of times!

Indeed, the Pandemic is dreadful. Sure, we have had to make difficult decisions that we didn’t want to ever have to make. However, may I suggest that we have a tremendous opportunity, too. We have the prospect of working together and overcoming this great and intimidating adversary.

As children, grandchildren and great grandchildren of the Greatest Generation (i.e., the generation that came back victorious from WWII and, through dedication and hard work, took the opportunity to further build the country and prosper), we certainly have it within us to deliver the leadership required. We just have to want to do it – when we do, we can become the Greatest Generation 2.0.

Clearly, our political leaders can’t be counted on in this stitch in time. They’re too busy fighting with each other over power and control to provide needed inspiration and leadership. This leaves it up to us, as senior business leaders, to set things right. If we don’t, we’re liable to end-up anywhere, but, where we want to be as businesses and as a nation.

Here’s how we can begin to take the lead in helping to redefine the social mores that inform and shape the current thinking and behavior of the people that work with, and for, us:

  1. Reinforce our responsibilities as global citizens. Americans need to be reminded of our responsibility as global citizens. The rest of the world is watching us. We need to set the example of what good looks like as we fight off the ravages of the pandemic. These reminders can come from business decision-makers to the people that they employ and lead.
  2. Drive a re-definition of the meaning “personal freedoms that matches today’s New Normal necessities. For example, requiring citizens to take mandated precautions against the spread of the virus should not be regarded as any more a threat to our civil liberties than needing to abide to posted speed limits. Speed limits make our roads safer for drivers and pedestrians alike. In a very direct way, business leaders should promote the idea that following the rules for preserving community health is a civic duty and the policies that they enact and put in place within their businesses should reflect it.
  3. Work to realize the shift from a work-life balance to work-life integration. We’ve proven that traditional in-office work requirements are simply a leftover of a 20th century paradigm and they need no longer apply in the 21st century business world. Yes, team connection and company affiliation are essentials of successful business and still need to be accounted for, however, office staff have proven that they can be counted on to get the job done even if they’re working from remote locations – like their own kitchen table. Leaders need to enable the extension of this shift even when the Pandemic is in the rearview mirror.
  4. Demystify mental health. There is evidence of a “PTSD Hangover” as a result of insufficient grief management during the pandemic. Many people have come to recognize that they just do not seem to “feel” as good as they once did prior to COVID-19. Business leaders need to encourage their staff to seek and receive the help they need to get their mental health back on track.
  5. Promote the ideal that looking after the most vulnerable is an obligation of being a member of a civilized society. By skirting that responsibility, we have essentially prolonged the risk of infection and added extra undue risk to front-line workers. It’s time for business leaders to step-up and fill the void by introducing and funding programs that address the issue head-on.
  6. Demonstrate through action that social justice makes life better for us all. There’s no need to recount the headlines related to police brutality and all of the protests, violence and finger-pointing that has come with it this year. As business leaders, we need to rise above the fray and become an engine to make real social change happen in the communities where we do business. Doing nothing, or worse, getting involved in public finger-pointing, is not going to bring about the changes we need to make life better for everyone.

To close, it is time for us to wake-up and rise to the occasion by providing the leadership needed to create a future that we can all be proud to leave to our grandchildren. After all, the original Greatest Generation had the hope for us to do one better than they did – that’s what they worked, fought and died for. Certainly, we, as a community of business leaders, can choose to fill leadership gaps and begin to tackle the enormous challenges that are so clearly in front of us.

The choice is ours. Let us choose to become the Greatest Generation 2.0.


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James Kerr
James Kerr, founder at Indispensable Consulting, is a long-time management consultant, vision maker and leadership coach. For nearly 30 years, he has helped his clients re-imagine the way work is organized and performed. His latest book, INDISPENSABLE: How to Build and Lead A Company Customers Can’t Live Without, is his 6th business title. Kerr is an expert in leadership, strategy, organizational design and cultural transformation. James M. Kerr is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. Follow him on Twitter or connect on LinkedIn.