Novelist James Lane Allen said, "Adversity doesn't build character, it reveals it." Who do leaders pay attention to first in a crisis? Are they rushing to the rails, first in the lifeboats? Or stay on deck and take care of the ship, the crew and all passengers?

Selfishness in leadership can be costly. Captain Francesco Schettino knows this all too well, he has been sentenced to 16 years in prison for manslaughter after Costa Concordia was hit on the rocks in 2021, killing 32 people. He left the ship with passengers and crew still on board ( BBC news, 2015 )

As human beings, all leaders have some degree of active self-preservation. Only working with this lens can harm all stakeholders and damage reputation. If we are to seize this opportunity during this pandemic, leaders must expand their circle of concern beyond just "me and my reputation." The bigger we the & # 39; we & # 39; the more likely we will endure it, with a legacy of leadership to be proud of.

One thing is certain, if a leader is concerned only about his legacy during the crisis, this is not the leader we want. Selfish reputational concerns should not guide decisions about livelihoods and livelihoods during the pandemic. COVID-19 has exposed many charismatic leaders with negative narcissistic traits of self-aggrandizement and megalomania.

Narcissism is a personality disorder in which a person is emotionally isolated, lacks empathy and is a poor listener. They often strive for "self-affirmation, regardless of or even at the expense of the needs and interests of others, destroying interpersonal relationships". ( Braun, 2017 ) There may not be many leaders classified as narcissists, about 5% according to this study ( Wright, 2017 ), but their impact is significant. We fall in love with their vision and charm. But this is undermined when their self-preservation and manipulation destroys camaraderie, trust and cooperation. When faced with the challenges of the pandemic, narcissists fail to rally the troops because they don't have access to the one thing that is most needed: empathy.

The leaders whose reputation has been enhanced by their response are all who spoke words of caring and caring. Angela Merkel and Jacinda Ardern stand out for their crisis management as well as their deeply compassionate messages. Globally, the leaders who receive the most respect are those who show fundamental concern for their fellows and evidence-based decision-making. Germany and New Zealand are touted as the best-led examples, with their science-based approach and centralized communication strategy ( Ketchell, 2020) .

Here are three concerns that must be maintained to help ensure long-term success after the pandemic, reputation intact:

Care for customers

If we treat our customers as partners, concessions and flexibility build goodwill and gratitude. Some self-centered leaders instead drove their clients to the wall: refusals to negotiate rents, demanding that contract terms be adhered to regardless of radically changed circumstances. This is shortsighted at best, opportunistic at worst. We do this together. Customers and companies are both stronger when they support each other.

Care for employees

Many employers were devastated when they had no choice but to let their employees go. Without income and without reserves, many companies closed their doors indefinitely. Some leaders did this with grace: compassionate talks, resource sharing, and next steps for government support. Others took a more insensitive and businesslike approach: an email at the end of the afternoon with a request for dismissal. As Maya Angelou said, "people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."

Community Care

Some companies like Unilever has more resources than others and has a comprehensive support strategy . While companies have hurt, many companies and leaders have taken a "do what you can approach" to support their communities. Free courses, reduced fees, donated items are some examples of how leaders and their businesses have rallied for the wider community.

Self-concern and the shadow of pride tarnishes the reputation and achievements of any leader. The consistent antidote to this trap is to put our focus back where it belongs: compassionate care for others. As leaders, we can make both sensitive and wise decisions; one does not preclude the other. In the long run, caring for others and expanding that circle of care has benefits for the people we serve and for the business. It turns out that leading unselfishly is ultimately the best investment for our leadership.


Wtitten by Zoe Routh .