We welcome you to the first edition of The ProdZen Insights, our monthly newsletter!
We will share insights on business trends, product building, management, growth, and issues affecting technology leaders.
We would also like to stay in touch with colleagues, clients, and partners to build a community of like-minded professionals.
This issue will focus on leadership in times of crisis – a timely and relevant theme given the current scenario.
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Founder, The ProdZen
Recently, an associate recommended a book, Shackleton’s Way: Leadership Lessons from the Great Antarctic Explorer. It is an incredible story of courage, persistence, leadership, isolation, and recovery.
A ship is stranded on ice while on an Antarctic expedition. The ice traps the ship and eventually crushes it. Shackleton, the Captain, is able to keep the crew together for nearly a year spent on ice in freezing cold temperatures with many failed attempts to escape. Eventually he succeeds in getting everyone to safety. What makes this story incredible and Shackleton’s leadership exemplary is the knowledge that the average survival rate of such expeditions was 50% or worse. Usually people succumbed to physical or mental illness, infighting and mutiny, and even cases of alleged cannibalism. So how did he do this with a 100% survival rate?
The parallels to our current situation are hard to miss when most of us have been stranded and isolated in our homes. Businesses have also gone through huge upheavals. Many have been gravely affected though a few managed to come out better. Leadership, not just at the top, but throughout an organization, has been a key ingredient of businesses, which have not just survived but come out stronger.
These are the key takeaways relevant to today’s situation:
When faced with an unprecedented crisis, the hardest thing is to stay calm, collect our thoughts and determine a plan of action. Leaders who are able to stay in control of their own fears, maintain a clear sight of the future, and guide their teams will eventually win.
Empathy and concern
In such a crisis, team members, customers, and partners are dealing with issues both at work and home. These could be taking care of loved ones or even coping with the loss of a friend or family member. Leaders who are able to empathize with and relate to their teams will be able to build trust, confidence and, loyalty more easily.
Tough decisions – many of which may be unpleasant – like scaling back teams or businesses, will be required. In some cases, entire strategies may have to be changed and a working plan reimagined. Standout leaders will be able to decide and act quickly, often without much time, information, or a clear future plan. Also, if earlier decisions have made things worse, leaders who can act with agility to move in a different (better) direction will also be equally important.
Leaders must keep sight of the light at the end of the tunnel. Even when all seems lost, maintaining your own morale and encouraging others can be the only way. Those who actually believe things are going to get better can convince others of the same. Leaders need the help and support of everyone to survive a crisis.
The success or failure of a startup can greatly depend on the type of personality its founders demonstrate. Founders may display a number of business styles, which could have an impact – either positive or negative – on the rest of the business and team. These may affect the entire operations as well as decision-making, morale, and motivation levels. Read more about the various types of founder styles and what they can do to ensure future success.