During a crisis like this, a unified leadership team shows its value

As an organisation grows, the onus on the business leader gets bigger and bigger. That’s probably not surprising.

You have less time than before, you have more people to manage, and you have more clients and customers to provide a great service to—without letting your standards drop. But now, in this unprecedented period in modern history, and in this very uncertain time, founders, CEOs and MDs have more responsibility than ever before. Not only does the leadership team have to find a way to serve their clients or customers, but they have to guide their own teams through turbulent waters until they can see land. 

It’s because of this that a lot of emphasis is being put on leadership. But what we’re usually reading and hearing about far less are leadership teams. The focus has often been on one individual who can do everything single-handedly, but this is often not the case (and nor, in a lot of cases, is it the best way to do things). My approach to leadership, for example has always been connected and collaborative, rather than isolated or dictatorial. But even Prime Ministers have Cabinets. Presidents have advisors. Even wartime leaders have their generals. And business leaders, even during ‘peacetime’, can surround themselves with key ‘generals’ who can take charge of some tasks and support them on others. At times like these, this kind of leadership structure really shows its value. Not only does it allow you to focus on the most essential tasks, but it strengthens the cohesiveness of the wider team, which is naturally threatened by the lockdown and need for individuals to self-isolate.

There’s no real typical structure of a leadership team like the one I’m describing. It depends on the business, the people in it, and its goals. In my own leadership team, for example, I’ve surrounded myself with individuals I can rely on not just to take care of essential tasks that allow us to carry on as we did even before the crisis, but to support me in carrying out my own responsibilities. Take your Business Development Lead. He or she can work on strategies to engage potential clients through traditional means and more unusual means, such as through webinars, creative ABM programmes or innovative content. Your Client Services Director can act as the main go-between your business and individuals in other organisations—which is so important at times like this—as well as keep standards high and be absolutely meticulous about meeting deadlines, delivering what you said you would deliver, and generally getting the basics right. Your MD or co-founder can play a major role in putting ideas forward and looking for gaps in your own thinking, as well as working with you to generate creative conflict and come up with new ideas. And Assistants to the Directors can drive initiatives throughout the week, which is what we’re doing at the tree: weekly HIT sessions, virtual parties and pub quizzes are vital to keeping morale high and the team close together.

The key thing is to make sure everybody in the leadership has a role and knows it well but can also lend a hand in other areas. Make sure all teams are committed to the cause and working together: it’s the laddering-up of input and resolve across the whole business that gives businesses the ability to get through these challenging times. Seek out the kind of complementarity in your leadership that companies like Adobe, Synopsys and Coca-Cola have pioneered and turned into an art form. Demonstrate in your leadership team the kind of cohesiveness and collaboration that you want the rest of the company to show in the day-to-day. And remember that no single person has to solve all the problems facing a business at a time like this. And though so often, and historically, we’ve heard stories about how one person has all the ideas and does everything, that’s rarely the case in reality.


By Dan Andrews, CEO, the tree