By Tessa Greenspan (as told to Nanette Wiser)

Today’s leaders face challenges both old and new. Compassion, integrity, good listening skills, civility never go out of style. At my previous company, my leadership style was to be firm and fair with kindness, treating everyone equally in every department, involving employees and asking for input. That still works.

One of the best quotes about leadership I have heard is from Warren Buffett, who said “The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.”  A leader needs time to think, strategize and make smart, informed, thoughtful decisions.

For leaders who may have a remote workforce or who have to pivot in light of new business demands and realities, there are new lessons to be learned in leadership. Here are a few tips we’ve collected from thought leaders and research.

  1. Place well-being as a top priority. Teachers, staff may be wary of coming back to the schools and office. Compassion and a plan for keeping employees (and customers) safe is #1.
  2. Cross-functional teams replace leaders. Empower employees to connect, collaborate around a project to increase innovation and out-of-the-box solutions, then free them to do their best. Support the team to set direction and implement. Command and control is the old-world model in the digital, international business environment, now increasingly remote.
  3. Leadership is democratic. Leaders will emerge on teams, regardless of formal titles and recognition. Be invested in their growth and success.
  4. Good leaders assess their workforce to support skill development.  Good leaders use online surveys, virtual suggestion boxes, virtual town halls, provide employee resource group forums/virtual lunches, use one-on-one conversations and more to keep business culture transparent and informed.
  5. Good leaders lead with positivity. Bad moods need to be turned off; a comment or look either in person or virtually can ruin an employee’s day and productivity. You control the weather and set the pace.
  6. Lead with curiosity. Ask questions and learn to use “What if? What’s working? What’s not?” to stimulate a vibrant exchange of ideas and solutions. Make it comfortable for people to innovate and engage in learning, not just doing. The best question? “What can I do to help you succeed.
  7. Be a good communicator. Share your vision with your team and ask them to develop the project message and strategy concisely. Internal communications with staff and stakeholders is essential for success. Be honest, empathic, clear and simple.
  8. Great leaders lead by example. Make your company and employees community champions. It can be volunteering to help with a food pantry or provide drive-by school supplies for children or teachers. Show that kindness matters and never stops.
  9. Share employee success stories. Collect stories of teams overcoming the adversity of COVID-19, and praise the amazing resiliency of their stories. Acknowledge the daily sacrifices your employees and their families make, especially for parents working from home with family members to care for.
  10. Keep on trucking. Effective leaders are able to remain calm and maintain a sense of perspective. According to Gene Klann, author (Crisis Leadership), “During a crisis, your goal is to reduce loss and keep things operating as normal as possible.”

Author and motivational speaker Tessa Greenspan is one of the most influential women in business today. Her recent memoir has become an international bestseller: “From Outhouse to Penthouse – Life Lessons on Love, Laughter and Leadership,” is available on Amazon here.  This inspired personal story, struggle to overcome obstacles and life lessons is especially poignant.  “Failure is not an option,” is Greenspan’s motto.  Her lectures on positivity in business and life include tips and processes for transforming personal and professional relationships during these challenging times. Her podcast, “Tuesdays with Tessa,” runs 10 am CT, hosted by Dr. Deb Carlin.