This year, we have seen businesses, big and small, close up shop because of the pandemic. It is unlike anything we have seen before in our lifetimes. People have lost their jobs. Many businesses have to close their physical stores and move to e-commerce. And although the governments have been trying to help businesses get on their feet again, the pandemic has been a true test of who you are as an entrepreneur and the stability of the business you created.
Seah Moon Ming, the chairman of SMRT Corporation Ltd. in Singapore, embodied the leadership that the world needs now more than ever. On October 24, 2017, he made headlines when he bowed in apology during a press briefing because of the disastrous first-time flood-induced breakdown of the North-South Line on October 7 that year. The said flooding affected more than 250,000 commuters.
3Cs: Take Charge, Make Connections, and Have Courage
During a remark at the National University of Singapore’s Engineering Distinguished Leaders Lecture in October 2018, Mr. Seah shared his personal principle in corporate leadership. He follows the 3Cs of taking charge, making connections, and having courage. These allowed Mr. Seah to become a beacon of hope in such dire times in a transport industry plagued with controversies.
Mr. Seah said that taking charge is what differentiates a manager from a leader. This is important in today’s world where young employees cannot simply abide by the what and how of the job. They want to know why the job is important. A leader more than gets things done. Leaders steer the company in the right direction. They give purpose to the work and provide a vision for the whole company.
In making connections, Mr. Seah would sometimes take the train to go to work. This allowed him to interact with commuters and get to know their complaints about the service personally. He would also visit his staff during weekends to see how they were doing. This shows camaraderie and a personal commitment to bettering his knowledge about the company that he leads. He said that it is important for leaders to communicate and connect with their subordinates.
Lastly, he said that having the courage to take ownership is the mark of a true leader. Recalling the time he apologized on behalf of SMRT, Mr. Seah said that a true leader knows not to blame others. Leaders must confront the issues head-on and start gaining back the customers’ trust.
Be as Transparent as You Can Be
Tony Scherba, president and CEO of Yeti, shared that another trait of a good leader is transparency. Employees know when you are hiding something from them. They feel it, and it affects their performance at work. Be as transparent as you can. Let the team know where they stand and how you can all move forward.
During the height of the pandemic, some employees are left wondering if they have a job to go back to. The most important thing that leaders did back then was to share the struggles of the company.
Lead the Younger Generation
Far too many times, there are stories of baby boomers not letting the younger generation take over. They do not trust the youth enough to lead a company. Tim Elmore of Growing Leaders believes otherwise. He said that leaders should reach out to this younger generation, whom he described as socially isolated because of their dependence on technology. Great leaders will build relationships with generations that come after them. Passing on the knowledge they gained from their experiences is going to be helpful to industries worldwide.
When you arrive at the office, how does everybody else feels about you? Hollywood films are full to the brim of stories about cold and callous bosses. In real life, this kind of boss is detrimental to a business. Employees need to feel positive in the workplace. Leading by fear never works for anyone. Sandy Geroux, CEO of WOWplace, International, said that a simple “Hello, how are you?” does not build relationships in the workplace.
Leaders have to reach out to their employees and customers. They have to make lasting connections. Remember their names. Ask about their families. Remind them to take a break. True leaders know how their words can influence a workplace, and they use their words to motivate rather than instill fear.
The mark of a true leader is when employees are not fearful but inspired to follow their lead. Do you inspire your people? Do you make them feel better about their work? Your leadership should not only make your business survive the pandemic. It should also help your business thrive even during the most inopportune of times.