Leadership Styles in Case of COVID-19

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Case Study

Executive Summary

This paper is a case study in the adoption of effective leadership styles and approaches to use in the COVID-19 business environment. Key parts of this paper will explore appropriate leadership styles that are applicable in managing employees in a pandemic and strategies for securing the progress made through continuous improvements. In addition, strategic thinking skills and techniques for use in an uncertain business environment will also be explored in the study.

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Introduction

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused serious economic, social and political costs to society, including exacerbated fears about liquidation, working remotely, fear, anxiety as well as uncertainty about the future. This case study relates to the implementation of leadership skills in the pandemic environment.

Leadership Skills to use in the Pandemic

Good communication and active listening skills are vital to promoting effective leadership in a pandemic environment. Particularly, active listening skills are useful in managing people’s frustrations in a pandemic environment characterized by the presence of multiple variables, varying views, and resource limitations (Khan, Ismail, Hussain, &Alghazali, 2020). Active listening is also useful in the case study because it provides the first line of defence against problematic employees. It advocates for the need to consult with all stakeholders involved in any given conflict and conduct research to get an accurate understanding of the main issues influencing employee performance.

Good communication is another important skill for leaders to have in the context of a crisis, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, because it enables team members to work with one another in solving problems and brainstorming new ideas (Hägg & Kurczewska, 2020). Leaders who have good communications skills present problems and solutions in simple language to allow all employees to be on-board with the dynamics of the case. Doing so enables them to have a proper understanding of all the issues affecting a case as well as the full picture of the employees’ behaviors, including their motives and reasons for behaving sub optimally. After completing this step, most leaders make the mistake of not understanding the views of the problematic employees (Khan et al., 2020). However, in the context of the case study, this will not happen as specific attention will be paid to understanding the multiplicity of views that are relevant to the current situation.

To achieve optimum results, there is need for leaders to provide support, resources and motivation for different groups of employees involved in the case study to work harmoniously. This process needs to happen after evaluating the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) of each of the employees mentioned (Hägg & Kurczewska, 2020). It is necessary to do so to establish the kind of contribution that each of the employee could make in the organization. Training and resource allocation programs should follow the findings of the above-mentioned process to make sure that each of the employees involved finds the right fit for their skills and duties.

A leader also needs to demonstrate good active listening skills for employees – in line with the core vision and goal of making employees feel respected and valued even as the pandemic rages on (Hägg & Kurczewska, 2020). These skills will allow employees to seek clarity about various issues by asking questions. Consequently, there will be little opportunity for misunderstanding or miscommunications to arise.

Leadership Styles to use on the 13 Problematic Employees

According to the case study report, there are 13 problematic employees with a majority of them being males (8), while the women (5) trail in a close second. To manage the situation, leaders need to evaluate their values by thinking of their contribution to the organization in terms of assets and liabilities (Khan et al., 2020). This approach will help to determine the contribution that the employees make to the organization to support its overall goals and objectives. In this regard, difficult employees will be deemed to be “assets” to the organization if their positive contributions outweigh their negative inputs and those who have negative behaviors that outweigh the positive contributions will be considered “liabilities” (Hägg & Kurczewska, 2020). To evaluate their performance, five leadership styles could be appropriately used to address emerging issues and they include democratic, pace-setting, autocratic, affiliative and coaching leadership styles.

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The democratic leadership style assumes an inclusive model of decision-making where each member has an equal right to contribute. The autocratic leadership style is the opposite of the democratic leadership model because it is defined by the centralization of decision-making power to one person or entity. Comparatively, the pace-setting leadership style assumes a strong leadership position from the top where managers set high standards for employees to attain and expect them to reach them with minimal supervision (Demirtas & Karaca, 2020). The affiliative leadership style thrives on the development of human bonds as a basis for growth and collaboration. Organizations that practice this type of leadership style encourage their employees to be empathetic and nurture emotional bonds (Demirtas & Karaca, 2020). The coaching leadership style works similarly, except for the fact that it promotes the creation of a culture of performance as the basis for growth and development. These leadership styles could be used on the 13 problematic employees and affect business processes as specified below.

Changes to Conduct in the Business

Crises are looked at as an opportunity to make changes in an organization or industry. Consequently, leaders are often required to restructure their operations to better absorb the risks associated with proposed changes and protect their energy to inspire and motivate others to perform well (Khan et al., 2020). Change is an important part of organizational growth because it heralds different iterations between cycles of growth and contraction in business. The proposed changes highlighted above could be fortified through process improvements (Elbert, 2018). Particularly, the adoption of lean technology systems to enhance efficiency would play a key role in realizing the goals of the above-mentioned leadership styles because one of the primary concerns in the organization was a high level of inefficiency in the management of organizational affairs (Hossain & Akter, 2020). Lean processes are customer-focused and they help managers to identify what is valuable to the customers (Elbert, 2018). Organizational processes should be redesigned to reflect their goals. The model has been adopted with commendable success, including its adoption by Toyota to develop efficient and affordable cars (Elbert, 2018). Alternatively, changes that can be made to the conduct of business by building a supportive culture that would address some of the problems highlighted in this case study.

This statement stems from the understanding that the conditions present in an organization or industry which could inhibit organizational change are a product of cultural systems and processes (Schein, 2016). Building a strong company culture is important in creating a conducive environment for making positive changes because it draws on the power of leaders to influence their work environments (Saleem, Shenbei, & Hanif, 2020). This could be done by using people-management skills to improve rapport between managers and employees and seeking feedback that could be further used to improve the performance of the business.

Developing this strong relationship with employees means that they can be free to communicate and give honest inputs about the firm’s operations and possibilities of improving them. This process could be implemented using various techniques but conducting surveys or interviews is a commonly highlighted step for gathering invaluable information from the workers (Saleem et al., 2020). The focus on people is part of a broader organizational change strategy that also involves modifications in technology and processes (Kornberger & Mantere, 2020). Therefore, people-centered change should be driven through a cultural revolution that may involve organizational change descriptions, end-user training, alterations in positions more roles and modifications in user procedures, just to mention a few.

From a process standpoint, a cultural change could be introduced to create functional team members by instituting changes in business model procedures, processes and rules. The cultural change model should involve the technical aspects of the organization’s performance, including the adoption of new systems and changes in business functionality (Eseryel, Crowston, & Heckman, 2021). From these developments, the conduct of the business will change through a cultural transportation process that not only targets people-centered activities, but also tools and techniques that aid in the implementation of their tasks and duties.

Strategic Thinking and Skills for Making the Change

The success of a leader in navigating an organization through a crisis depends on two factors. The first one is the identification of the best and most appropriate strategy to employ in solving the crisis and the second one is the need to monitor the efficiency of implementing this strategy through all organizational departments (Chahal & Sharma, 2020). Having the courage of conviction will play a key role in making the proposed changes. This action involves staying the course in the adoption of strategies for investing in the organization’s future capabilities.

Time management is also an important aspect of strategic thinking and management that could be useful in promoting organizational change. It involves tracking the period it takes to complete each stage of the processes undertaken in the organization to understand where systems could be optimized (Saleem et al., 2020). There are several ways of doing this, including using a software to measure time. Nonetheless, by understanding how long it takes to complete each stage of the organizational lifecycle means that it will be easier to find ways to eliminate time wastage.

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Promoting accountability in the change management process will also help to institute some of the proposed changes because it will instill a sense of responsibility among employees in the way they carry themselves in the organization (Symons &Alvarado, 2016). This management tool will also aid in instilling positive behavioral attributes among employees that would make it possible to identify people who will be personally held responsible for the implementation of different phases of change (Symons &Alvarado, 2016). Nonetheless, this process requires the inputs of different stakeholders whose contributions need to be sought to support the plan. The overall strategy may also involve obtaining feedback from colleagues and identifying a person or department that would be held responsible for managing it or implementing associated changes in the organization.

Strategic Thinking Skills and Techniques for Making the Changes more Efficient and Effective

Setting clear priorities about how the strategic implementation plan will be carried out is an important part of managing the change management process required to improve the performance of the restaurant chain (Bapuji et al., 2020). To this end, there is need to evaluate human and organizational resources that are needed to make the proposed changes more efficient and effective. The process involves creating conditions that support this goal and balancing direction and autonomy in the management of organizational affairs (Bapuji et al., 2020). For example, rewarding appropriate risk-taking could make employees keener about the kind of risks they take in the course of undertaking their tasks. Doing so would make them more efficient and effective in decision-making.

Developing an automation tool within the organization could also help in making the proposed changes more efficient and effective because it would be devoid of human errors and inefficiencies (Symons &Alvarado, 2016). For example, developing a software that appeals to the unique needs and dynamics of the organization’s needs could be instrumental in streamlining processes and making them more receptive to continuous improvements through looped feedback patterns that could be integrated in a software or automation tool (Symons &Alvarado, 2016). The minimal input of human beings in the automation process means that errors and inefficiencies would be significantly minimized (Suša Vugec, Tomičić-Pupek, & Vukšić, 2018).

By adopting an automation strategy, business functionality could also be improved through the adoption of additional benefits of technology use, such as the ability to work remotely (Datta & Nwankpa, 2021). Indeed, certain automation tools, such as SolveXa’s system could store large amounts of data that can be accessed remotely via virtual networks (Datta & Nwankpa, 2021). Proposed changes could also be made more efficient and effective through periodic time audits which would assess the amount of time taken to complete specific phases of the project. This initiative is highlighted because time is one of the most important resources in business.

Strategies to Use for Continuous Improvement

Making leadership development a key part of the organization’s leadership strategy is one of the most important strategies to use for continuous improvement. This is because leadership plays an important role in influencing the success of various aspects of a company’s operations (Herbane, 2020). Continuous improvement could also be maintained by evaluating the gap between current and desired organizational processes. This evaluation plan would help in identifying the best strategy to use for continuous improvement.

Making strategy a learning process would also enhance continuous improvement standards. Particularly, pursuing this strategy even when key performance indicators have already been met will send a signal to all employees that there is always room to do better, thereby improving their morale (Herbane, 2020). The process also requires employees to adopt distinctive behaviors at each stage of the change management process (Chahal & Sharma, 2020).

The kind of skills and techniques to be employed may be communicated to employees through training and seminars that would better prepare them to embrace new practices. Leadership will play an important role in making the continuous improvement process a success because it is the foundation for making strategy a learning process (Herbane, 2020). Indeed, leadership will develop the vision and see to it that it is achieved through small and progressive steps, which will be built on previous experiences for continuous improvement.

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How to Implement Continuous Improvement Operations in the Organization

Implementing continuous improvement requires a change in mindset among employees about how to deal with unknowns in the marketplace. For example, it is prudent to inculcate the practice of making quick and decisive decisions in the face of uncertainty if continuous improvement processes are to be fortified (Ohreen, Sundararajan, Trifts, & Comber, 2021). This will enable employees to have a basis for learning from this experience and better adapt the lessons derived from it to prepare for future disasters.

The failure to make such decisive decisions portends significant risk to the survival of the business because there is an opportunity cost attached to inaction, which could be detrimental to the future operations of the business (Guarani de Souza, Lacerda, Riehs Camargo, Dresch, & Piran, 2018). Taking action implies that there is an opportunity cost created for not pursuing other options. Therefore, employees need to be taught to make quick and decisive decisions to avoid paying for the cost of inaction.

Brainstorming with stakeholders to develop new strategies for continuous improvement will also ensure the process remains on course. The common expectation is that valuable ideas will emerge and be exchanged among partners to come up with a workable plan for maintaining the momentum of change in the organization (Khan et al., 2020). Alternatively, views could be sought from the stakeholders through surveys or questionnaires to identify issues that affect their performance, thereby providing a reliable ground for making recommendations on how to address them.

Implementing continuous improvement may also require regular training and coaching regarding ways to manage crises and better adapt solutions to fit organizational change patterns. This process will help employees to better prepare for the challenges that come with a rapidly changing and uncertain economic environment (Tracey, O’Sullivan, Lane, Guy, & Courtemanche, 2017). Several examples have been provided to show how training and coaching help in continuous improvement. For example, cross-training has been associated with positive contributions to process improvements and the development of automation software has played a role in advancing the same (Tracey et al., 2017).

The above-mentioned examples could provide case studies for the adoption of continuous improvement standards because they would prepare managers and leaders to carry out tasks that lie outside the boundary of their normal responsibilities. This training approach could be adopted in the current case study of the Italian restaurant because it would enhance synergy in the management of employee productivity when employees are trained to work in different job tasks then the sickness of one employee would not have a negative impact on the business (Tarba, Ahammad,Junni, Stokes, & Morag, 2019). Broadly, continuous improvements would ensure that progress is fortified and growth opportunities are acknowledged.

Conclusion

The insights provided in this paper show effective leadership styles and approaches to use in the COVID-19 business environment. A mixture of leadership styles, including democratic, pace-setting, autocratic, affiliative and coaching leadership styles are deemed appropriate to use in managing employees in a pandemic situation. Furthermore, it is noted that the progress made from the use of these leadership styles can be secured through continuous improvements. In addition, strategic thinking skills and techniques will help in calibrating the response that managers need to exhibit when managing frustrated employees.

Recommendations

As a Board, the core objective is to ensure the long-term survival of the business and the maximization of stakeholders’ interests. In line with this goal, the business needs to change its business philosophy to reflect one which addresses short-term problems with the long-term vision in mind. It should have a three-pronged plan of learning how to accomplish the goals of the organization, starting the journey and evaluating progress. The main objective of proposing this plan is to instill a clarity of focus in the organization by learning what to do, especially in extraneous circumstances, and what not to do in the same situation or otherwise.

Changing the philosophy of the business will be a first step in investing in the future of the business because some of its benefits may not be visible in the first few months or even years. Therefore, the plan could be regarded as an investment in the organization’s ability to manage uncertainties, thereby enhancing its capabilities and resources in managing the same. Managers should learn to stick to the original plan even when other strategic options may seem more attractive. This means that they should have the courage of conviction that the proposed changes they intend to make will live up to their expectations.

References

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Chahal, H., & Sharma, A. K. (2020). Family business in India: performance, challenges and improvement measures. Journal of New Business Ventures, 1(2), 9-30.

Datta, P., & Nwankpa, J. K. (2021). Digital transformation and the COVID-19 crisis continuity planning. Journal of Information Technology Teaching Cases, 7(2), 167-173.

Demirtas, O., & Karaca, M. (2020). A handbook of leadership styles. London: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

Elbert, M. (2018). Lean production for the small company. New York, NY: CRC Press.

Guarani de Souza, I., Lacerda, D. P., Riehs Camargo, L. F., Dresch, A., & Piran, F. S. (2018). Do the improvement programs really matter?An analysis using data envelopment analysis. Business Research Quarterly, 21(4), 225-237.

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Herbane, B. (2020). Locational contiguity and business continuity: Perceived organizational resilience of small- and medium-sized enterprises in U.K. business parks. SAGE Open, 4(1), 1-12.

Hossain, M. I., &Akter, N. (2020). Do business graduates intend to adopt the social business model? a perspective of developing country. Journal of New Business Ventures, 1(2), 31-47.

Khan, M. A., Ismail, F. B., Hussain, A., &Alghazali, B. (2020). The interplay of leadership styles, innovative work behavior, organizational culture, and organizational citizenship behavior. SAGE Open, 7(2), 332-351.

Kornberger, M., & Mantere, S. (2020). Thought experiments and philosophy in organizational research. Organization Theory, 5(2), 1-10.

Ohreen, D., Sundararajan, B., Trifts, V., & Comber, S. (2021). Vygotskian business ethics: The influence of peers on moral reasoning in business ethics education. Journal of Management Education, 7(2), 1-11.

Saleem, Z., Shenbei, Z., & Hanif, A. M. (2020). Workplace violence and employee engagement: the mediating role of work environment and organizational culture. SAGE Open, 8(1), 132-142.

Schein, E. H. (2016). Organizational culture and leadership. London: John Wiley & Sons.

Suša Vugec, D., Tomičić-Pupek, K., & Vukšić, V. B. (2018). Social business process management in practice: Overcoming the limitations of the traditional business process management. International Journal of Engineering Business Management, 5(2), 765-769.

Symons, J., &Alvarado, R. (2016). Can we trust big data?Applying philosophy of science to software. Big Data & Society, 4(1), 1-22.

Tarba, S. Y., Ahammad, M. F., Junni, P., Stokes, P., & Morag, O. (2019). The impact of organizational culture differences, synergy potential, and autonomy granted to the acquired high-tech firms on the M&A performance. Group & Organization Management44(3), 483-520.

Tracey, S., O’Sullivan, T. L., Lane, D. E., Guy, E., & Courtemanche, J. (2017). Promoting resilience using an asset-based approach to business continuity planning. SAGE Open, 5(1), 1-11.

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