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Why the COVID-19 Pandemic Should Change Business Leadership

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Some leaders have always embraced change; others have been more resistant to it. Some leaders still cling to the known ways of doing things, even though there might be newer and better ways to conduct business.

Sometimes, events happen to force change. The COVID-19 pandemic is such an example. No one really foresaw the immense disruption this pandemic would cause to U.S. society and the world. At first, no one even understood it medically or socially.

Some Businesses Had to Make Drastic Changes

For businesses, the pandemic brought many changes that few American business leaders really saw coming. As a result of COVID-19 restrictions and the need to safeguard public health, businesses had to adapt to stay afloat and look for ways to be profitable.

Some business markets changed drastically. Disney is one example; it had to close their amusement parks for a long time due to state mandates. Many employees were either laid off, moved to other positions or let go in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sadly, these changes to the state of employees do happen in business when the market changes. Businesses must make alterations because of changes to their markets that affect their profits. But sometimes, businesses do not have any real control over some things happening in their markets, like the state-ordered public health mandates.

Now that Disney is gradually reopening its amusement parks, the organization has gotten more creative by placing their full-time workers into different areas of the company. While some areas remain closed, these workers are happy to be working and learning new skills. While this situation is not ideal, Disney is attempting to be as practical as possible and deserves credit for its ability to adapt its business to market changes.

Leaders Must Be Ready for the ‘New Normal,’ Now and in the Future

While some business leaders might think that everything might just go back to normal at some point, it is also clear that a business cannot just sit back and wait for a return to normalcy. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, businesses must continue to operate in some way.

The big questions of what to do in the meantime will be critical for a business to continue its existence. During this pandemic, many smaller organizations ended up closing because they could not come up with any really good options to stay open and be profitable.

Similarly, some businesses struggled with finding ways to operate within the new limitations placed upon them because of safety concerns from this pandemic. For instance, many restaurants forced to limit their onsite dining now place a much bigger focus on takeout and delivery options, which allowed them to still operate, although at a smaller scale.

Also, many retail stores made a big push to online shopping. Even larger stores like Walmart have been pushing online shopping for customer convenience and to protect public health.

Company Leaders Should Make Well-Informed Decisions

What specific changes leaders should make right now is something only company leaders can answer. These leaders know their markets and resources the best, so they can make the most informed decisions.

While some decisions like closing stores are not easy choices to make, leadership must look at their own bottom line to see what can really work best for the organization. Leaders should also be on the lookout for new ideas to help their business and further grow their market share.

Growing a market share during this pandemic is not something that is easy to do, but making necessary changes might take leaders and their companies to new business areas and profitable opportunities. These changes might also drastically alter how a business operates and possibly even what it does.

We Should Learn Lessons from Our Business Leaders

As the COVID-19 pandemic gradually winds down and more businesses reopen, we will see how our leaders react to survive this crisis, now and in the future. We can also take a hard look at leaders and their leadership during the pandemic.

As German business experts Silke Bartsch, Ellen Weber, Marion Büttgen and Ariana Huber note in a 2020 International Journal of Service Management article, leaders have often pushed jobs and services — virtual or digital — to deal with health concerns and social distancing during this pandemic. But because only some options can be offered digitally, other concerns of change of volume and desire for products will not be affected.

The key here is creativity here. Leaders need to think out of the box here to find new ideas and options for their workers.

Shifting positions like Disney Parks did is only a single option, so this is where study and research can help leaders. If leaders can do research on their own and use company facts and figures, they might be able to find new business options for their organizations.

This is why many universities now include the study of research and leadership like our University does, in university programs such as the online master’s in business administration. Leaders who know how to research can then act quicker and more efficiently when dealing with a crisis.

Ideally, we should find business lessons from what changes were made, how those changes were made and how those changes affected an organization. Hopefully, leadership will continue to grow and thrive.

The big question is if U.S. businesses will actually return to “business as normal” and how they will continue to cope with this pandemic. We are getting closer and closer to this point currently but there are still some organizations that are unsure of the final outcome from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Leadership should be always open to learning new ideas and making solid changes, but the sad fact that some leaders still resist change in any form could be a setback in recovering from this pandemic. Ideally, leadership should view any change as an opportunity. How leaders can actually make their businesses better than before should be their main concern, not just getting back to normal.

Dr. Mark Friske is a part-time instructor for the Wallace E. Boston School of Business. He holds a B.A. in pre-law from Bob Jones University, an M.B.A. in business administration from Capella University and a Ph.D. in organization and management from Capella University.

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