Ayyar: Leadership is the key to fight Covid-19

By 09 May 2020

Metal Container Manufacturers Association of India’s Venu Ayyar pens his view on how leadership is the key to overcome the global crisis caused by the Covid-19 outbreak

Ayyar: We will need to figure out how to operate in new ways post lockdown

The Covid-19 crisis is set to change outlook towards business globally. The speed and scope of the Coronavirus poses a number of challenges that today, it is upon the leaders to take decisions that could change the future business environment.

Let me share an instance of a leader taking a decision in the interest of his supporters before Covid-19 could take a toll on any of them.

On 11 March 2020, Adam Silver, the commissioner of the National Basketball Association (NBA), took the surprise step of suspending the professional basketball league for the season. Silver’s decision was one of the earliest high-profile responses to the virus outside China. He delivered it at a time of great uncertainty. Coincidentally, 11 March 2020 was also the day that the World Health Organization (WHO) formally designated the Covid-19 as a pandemic.

The NBA is an organisation with more than USD 8 billion revenue in 2019, known for physical prowess and competitiveness, not excess caution, acted in what appeared at the time to be great caution and reserve. It got people thinking.

In a moment of tremendous ambiguity, Silver’s decisive action — well before WHO declared Covid-19 a pandemic and state governments began restricting public gatherings in the United States — set off a chain of events that almost certainly altered the course of the virus. Over a million fans would now avoid potential exposure at games.

“For some organisations, near-term survival is the only agenda. Others are peering through the fog of uncertainty, thinking about how to position themselves once the crisis has passed and things return to normal. The question is, What will normal look like? While no one can say how long the crisis will last, what we find on the other side will not look like the normal of recent years,”  wrote Ian Davis, managing partner, McKinsey and Company in 2009, during the global financial crisis, which appears to be true even after 11 years.

As the lockdown restrictions begins to ease, businesses will need to figure out how to operate in new ways.

These changes bring significant opportunities as well as risks. In response, companies in different sectors will have to transform their products, processes and business models. Now they need to work harder and pursue new relationships with customers, suppliers, and partners. With so many variables at work, the challenge for many organisations will be to learn how to sustain in a world of continuous turbulence.

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