Leading businesses through crazy times: tips for servant leaders
Helene Auramo is CEO and Chief Ethical Officer & Co-Founder of Prönö. She is also an entrepreneur and Co-Founder of Slush (Europe’s biggest startup event), Zipipop (the first social media agency in Finland), and Indiedays (the first fashion blogger site in Finland).
It is getting crazier out there, and the business world is expecting even more VUCA: volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. Today, it is evident that leaders need to have several new skills and tactics to deliver organizational growth and persevere through market downturns.
The requirements in today’s business world are almost impossible to handle – both the speed and the changes — first covid, then the war in Ukraine, and even strikes across Finland. We live in a time of uncertainty, and it seems the tension is not going away.
Organizations need to be flexible and fast. Their people need to remain resilient and creative. But how can it be done?
I think today’s new reality requires a humane business approach led by servant leaders.
We need humane businesses. I mean that we simply need to move towards a humane way of doing business that reimagines and rethinks the potential of a business for doing good in the world. Humane businesses focus on creating economic, social, and environmental value for all stakeholders and trying to improve the world through their business practices. These are businesses that serve a purpose, requiring a particular type of leader.
Servant leadership is a leadership philosophy in which the leader’s goal is to serve. A servant–leader focuses on the growth and well-being of people and the communities and societies they belong to. Servant leaders trust employees, empower them and give them the support and tools needed to help them do the best they can in their work.
To lead effectively during crazy times, I have five tips for servant leaders.
1. Put your purpose front and center.
It is impossible to navigate times of uncertainty and storms if you don’t have your purpose, mission, vision, and values clear. They need to be understood by the whole organization in order to move in the same direction.
2. Make sure your team is alright.
Is your team under a lot of stress? How do they cope with working often remotely and by themselves? Listen to them, help them, and give them tools to get the outside help and support they need.
Have 1-to-1 sessions with them more often if you are working digitally.
3. Empower people – the new way
Sometimes new perspectives and second opinions can also help.
One approach that I find to be the most exciting and promising is giving employees the freedom to buy advice, coaching, and sparring from top professionals – tools to empower your team. My company Prönö is solving this challenge by giving innovative organizations the tools to offer their employees the freedom to get help from the top professionals in many different fields, including leadership, marketing, communications, sales, sustainability, and coaching.
4. When s*** hits the fan – Utopias might help
Sometimes when things get really hard, the concept of utopias might help. I have learned that every time my business has been in a crisis, something good has actually come out of it. You just need to be creative. Of course, being creative during difficult times is hard, but there are people who can help you. Anna Moilanen is one of them.
Tiketti is a great example. When the pandemic started, it was obvious that the event ticket business would be affected severely. All at once, 90% of revenue was blown away, as the pandemic restrictions hit. What did their CEO Mirva Merimaa do? She asked Anna to help them create utopias.
Sometimes you need new perspectives in order to think totally out of the box, and although you might not change your direction, when you get back from the utopias mindset to your normal business, you can see the path ahead more clearly.
5. Leader, are you ok?
Last but not least: Make sure you are ok. If you are stressed, then you can’t make decisions. Many leaders feel paralyzed, which is normal. Sometimes even just two days off can work miracles – like business coach Sarah Lock once said when I was too stressed and couldn’t make decisions. I managed to take the recommended two days off and was back to the normal me.
Working with an executive coach is also something I highly recommend to everyone serious about being a high performer – in times of crisis and in the good times.