Covid-19 is a crisis that we’ve never seen the like of before; this is not deep-water horizon, nor even the 2008 financial crisis, it is far worse and the global impact of it is rippling throughout every part of the world.
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On a human level this public health emergency is a tragedy of epic proportions as we are sadly seeing lives cut short and taken abruptly by this invisible virus, families left devastated, and lives changed with the passing of loved ones.
With the continuing “Great Lockdown” as the IMF’s chief economist, Gita Gopinath, coined it recently, we will also have to deal with the consequences from this virus which has caused a global economic emergency.
The IMF describes this as the worst global crisis and recession since the Great Depression in the 1930s, and far worse than the Global Financial Crisis of 2008.
This means every government is having to not just fight one crisis, but multiple at the same time with the decisions taken now impacting lives, businesses, and their national economies in the short to long term.
Here in the UAE, the leadership was quick to react to the unfolding crisis and wisely implemented a range of measures such as being amongst the world leaders in testing for the virus that certainly have resulted in the saving of many lives.
Business leaders are having to navigate through this unprecedented prolonged period of uncertainty that is requiring substantial change to how they operate.
Some businesses will undoubtedly fold during this time, others will need to reformulate their strategies in order to emerge out of this moment successfully.
Some may even need a complete pivot around who they are, what they do, and what they stand for.
It’s at times like this, that purposeful leadership delivered consistently and authentically through strategic communications will help organisations to stand out from the crowd and win by being relevant and demonstrating empathy.
Businesses have a responsibility to their employees, their customers, their stakeholders and the communities in which they operate within, by not just saying the right thing and selling their products and services, but doing the right thing and making a demonstrable difference in our now ‘new world’.
It’s now not just the time to follow the crisis manual and the crisis process and our ‘business as usual’ comms strategy; it’s time for businesses to be distinctive, show relevance to what is happening around them and to the lives of their consumers, take a leadership position and give all of those within their ecosystem something to be proud of and inspired by.
I read an interesting quote in the Harvard Business review last week by Hubert Joly, the executive chairman and former CEO of Best Buy. Commenting on discussions with CEOs around Covid-19 he went on to say, “I have found the leaders that I have spoken with to be incredibly purpose-driven, with a clear human focus. They see that this crisis is a key leadership moment for them to help others. They are all spending time with their teams and working together to do the right thing. They understand, to put it in Churchillian terms, that this has the potential to be their ‘finest hour’, and they want to rise to the occasion. In all cases, I have been struck by their humanity”.
I think this sentiment is spot on and it will be these businesses and business leaders that will help navigate what will be our ‘new normal’ and credibly acting with true empathy, and a heartening show of humanity when we need it most.
Here in the UAE, we see some great examples of businesses acting with heart and being a part of this community.
Like Dubai-based Cafu – the Middle East’s first on-demand fuel delivery provider – has announced it will deliver petrol to the Dubai Corporation for Ambulance Services’ (DCAS) fleet of vehicles, which operate in over 100 locations across the emirate.
Cafu’s founder and CEO, Rashid Al Ghurair, described this completely right with empathy and demonstrating real leadership when he said: “It is important to come together as a community and support each other during this critical time.” I wholeheartedly agree and its commendable to see Cafu using its expertise and assets authentically in where they have the ‘right to play’
Much like Mubadala, who are using their mite and showing purposeful leadership to drive impact, in their launch of #WeAreDedicated, a coordinated campaign to help combat Covid-19 by supporting communities in the UAE and across the globe.
These are just two of the many businesses that are standing out from the crowd. ‘doing the right thing, not just saying the right thing’, demonstrating thoughtful and purposeful leadership.
We are going into a new world. And Covid-19 has and will continue to take the lives of many loved ones which is dreadfully sad.
But let’s use this crisis to emerge from it as better humans; have purpose and not just process and profit at our hearts; speak and act with empathy, and lead from the front as communications and business leaders.
Teri O’Donnell is founding partner & chair of Manara Global
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