This COVID-19 crisis is the right time to showcase holistic leadership or 4D leadership as it is commonly referred to. It can play a crucial role in driving through the present wave of turbulence.
According to Dr Alan Watkins, the 4D leadership module involves leaders expanding their capabilities to see further, understand more, think better, and become more sophisticated and flexible in the way they approach people and situations.
Leaders must embrace a holistic leadership culture, which, unlike the single leadership method, comes with several dimensions. It is not just the adoption of the approach that is tricky, but emerging as an effective leader from doing so, and creating a strong culture overnight, is equally challenging.
Here is how to use a holistic approach to leadership in this time of crisis.
It all depends on how we bounce back and how authentic and humble we are as leaders. I believe it is in times like these, that great leaders emerge
Lead with clarity and empathy
Given the manner in which a single virus outbreak has disrupted the lives and businesses across the country, senior HR specialist, Vaijayanti Naik, former learning head, ICICI Bank, feels that 4D Leadership can adds a new dimension to leadership.
Holistically, Naik says, “The focus of this leadership is not just productivity, but the overall aspect of an organisation. We have to look beyond the immediate and think of a long-term situation, because there will be a life after COVID and things will be different once the crisis is over.”
Keeping that in mind, Naik also feels that leaders should take into consideration the fact that life after the pandemic, will not be the same as what it actually was.
As everybody’s personal survival is at stake, “Right now, it is the time to lead with clarity and empathy and deal with uncertainty and ambiguity, and leaders must recognise this scale,” Naik further adds.
Showcasing a wider perspective of holistic leadership, Naik urges leaders to boycott the old models of leadership and look at things holistically from a long-term perspective.
The senior leader is strictly against using the ordinary leadership practices in this new virtual setup.
In her own words, “The ‘relating’ factor in 4D leadership becomes very important and it needs to be emphasised among the leaders.” Naik concludes with the thought that one needs to be truly authentic and bring more of oneself to this whole leadership process.
I need to be there even when things can be managed in my absence. It further strengthens a person’s fight with himself and his job. This is where this specific type of leadership plays a bigger role
Make decisions from the heart
“A leader needs to have a big heart and an edge that will define his role in making the right business decisions,” says Raj Raghavan, senior VP-HR, Indigo Airlines.
Having said that, Raghavan also believes that those right decisions are usually tough and have to be made consciously, not just by following the spirit of law, but by keeping the employees at heart.
Although leadership is mentally and emotionally demanding, Raghavan believes that a holistic leader is someone who knows what is right for the business. Someone who will make tough decisions without basing them on emotional factors. These decisions should not lead to any further disruption in the lives of employees.
“Not only will you need to temper your emotions to keep your team inspired, you’ll also be the point person for almost every hard decision your business makes,” he added.
As leadership is multidimensional, Raghavan feels that he cannot afford to compromise on his responsibility towards his stakeholders, investors, customers and to his employees altogether.
Having held various senior HR leadership positions supporting several businesses, Raghavan opines that his leadership has always called for justifying his position, with the ability to make tough decisions, which are edgy and straight from the heart.
Raghavan suggests that every organisation should consider its employees as the biggest stakeholders and that communication should be at par with them. “A leader has to be very authentic and humble, and shouldn’t fool people around. It is okay not to have all the answers, stammer, stutter and stop projecting yourself as a superhero. There is no point in showing bravado and beating your chest in public,” he asserts.
A humble leader himself, Raghavan urges people to understand that this COVID situation has made companies take the backseat, at least for the next 5 years.
“It all depends on how we bounce back and how authentic and humble we are as leaders. I believe it is in times like these, that great leaders emerge,” he says.
The ‘relating’ factor in 4D leadership becomes very important and it needs to be emphasised among the leaders
Be present, motivate
Not all sectors have shut down. There are a few that continue to operate, owing to the immediate help that they have to offer. Pharma companies, for instance, are still working at a stretch and handling the peak load in a scenario where resources have suddenly vanished.
Seeing others work from home, several employees of this sector are worried about risking their lives in the present situation.
Calling it the need of the hour, Sunil Singh, chief human resources officer, Cadila, says, “Many times, people don’t realise the importance of their work and how it is saving lives. That’s where this leadership comes into the picture. We have to make sure that we don’t risk the lives of our employees and try to achieve multiple things with the available resources.”
Singh is hit hard by the realisation that pharma companies are not just working for one state, but for the entire country. The realisation has sunk deeper, given with the fact that unlike others, they have to play a larger role during such troubling times by making the medicines available for the population.
It is quite challenging for Singh to make his employees realise the intensity of the situation and that it is a part of their job and existence.
As a leader, “I need to be there even when things can be managed in my absence. It further strengthens a person’s fight with himself and his job. This is where this specific type of leadership plays a bigger role,” elucidates Singh.
The CHRO believes that, during this crisis, it is the companies that get things done through passion, hard work and from their own vantage point, that will emerge victorious.
Singh reveals how touched he was by the gesture of his workers, who turned up for work despite facing the brunt of the police force. Considering these workers to be his real heroes, Singh asserts, “Their morale and motivation was intact and this goes to prove that leadership doesn’t always come with a high authority.”