4 Leaders Managers Should Be Watching Right Now

Despite the changing nature of work during this pandemic, one thing hasn’t changed: the importance of the manager as the primary source of communication to front-line employees. 

Several leaders have emerged across the political spectrum and are well-received for their impactful communications: Andrew Cuomo, Governor of New York, Mike DeWine, Governor of Ohio, London Breed, Mayor of San Francisco, and Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand, all managers with lessons for how to reach people in meaningful and memorable ways.

Governor Andrew Cuomo, New York

Despite the seriousness of his daily briefings, Governor Cuomo speaks with authority in a calm and methodical manner. He projects true and authentic leadership through a message of empathy and warmth. He also is very clear about what he wants his audience to do to remain safe during the pandemic. 

The takeaway:

Governor Cuomo does not try to be the expert on all matters; instead, he sticks to things he does know. This has the effect of raising his credibility as he doesn’t try to overstep his knowledge. Managers can learn the importance of saying “I don’t know” while offering the chance to find out more. Employees will appreciate the honesty as they can read through managers trying to talk their way around something they don’t know. 

Governor Cuomo is not shy about sharing how he is doing with updates on his dog, his mother, and his brother. This allows him to appear vulnerable and human just like everyone else. 

Finally, managers can be clear about the things they want their employees to do during these times to remain safe and to be prepared for when conditions improve.

Put it in practice:

Your vulnerability as a leader is your superpower — own what you don’t know, share your experience with the pandemic, let the team know what you can’t do (so it’s clear what they can.)

Governor Mike DeWine, Ohio

Governor DeWine is a long-time Ohio politician known for his folksy approach. He was one of the first governors to take a strong position in closing government offices at the start of the pandemic in the U.S. and has stuck by the advice of health officials as he plans to reopen them. Governor DeWine has been praised by city mayors outside his own party for how well he works collaboratively for the greater good of the state.

The takeaway:

Stick with the advice of experts and remain collaborative to show unity during a crisis.

Put it in practice:

Communicators can equip managers with a regular cadence of facts about how the company is faring and what steps it is taking to protect the health of its workers, especially as the company begins to reopen. Managers will appear to be well informed and become a trusted source of truth. Managers likewise should hold team meetings with other departments to foster a sense of collaboration.

Mayor London Breed, San Francisco

Mayor Breed not only took sharp steps to lock down the city, she did so back in late February before the city even had any confirmed cases, which allowed the city time to prepare. Admired by many for being good at staying focused on the task at hand and not getting distracted, Mayor Breed has served as both a reassuring figure emphasizing the “we will get through this” message and the enforcer focused on getting people to stay home and follow the rules. Her approach became a roadmap for many governors that followed.  

The takeaway:

People will follow leaders who show they understand the concerns everyone is facing. When a leader demonstrates that they’re listening, people will respond more positively and be more willing to accept even the toughest decisions. Employees will respond well to the right mix of concern and honesty.

Put it in practice:

Show empathy by listening carefully and providing clear direction in every interaction with your team so you make your decisions with firmness informed by your understanding. 

Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister, New Zealand  

Prime Minister Ardern has been praised from many aspects of her government, the media, and the public for her bold moves that led New Zealand to practically eliminate COVID-19. She chose strict lockdowns and hygiene measures to limit transmission. It’s not simply what she chose, but how she explained the measures. Her impassioned plea and empathetic presentation moved New Zealanders to willingly comply. Her leadership saved innumerable lives and spared the population suffering.

The takeaway:

In times of crisis, we need leaders willing to make the tough calls while taking the time to explain reasoning with great care.

Put into practice:

Not everyone on the team will have the same background or history with an issue. Therefore, managers should convey their message with a thoughtful explanation, heavily focusing on the benefits resulting from the stringent measures taken.

All of these leaders have one thing in common: empathy. Now is the time to help managers see the importance of their role in showing empathy to keep their employees well informed and engaged to help the business survive and thrive during this challenging time. 

John Buchholz
Consultant, Strategic and Crisis Communication
John loves the power of communications and believes that nothing engages an audience better than a great story.
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