By Roxana Mohammadian-Molina, Chief Strategy Officer at Blend Network.
As the Covid19 public health crisis and the consequent lockdown continues to ravage economies and financial markets, businesses across the world are working against the clock to make fast, difficult decisions, often serving highly diverse customer bases, with no time to spare.
In this unprecedented context, diversity has quickly proved to be essential for successful leadership in times of crisis and the lack of it a disaster with dire consequences. This is due to three key reasons.
First, a diverse leadership is best placed to grasp the various range of impacts the Covid19 crisis is having on the company’s employees and customers, because let’s face it, one of the greatest challenges is actually understanding the needs and circumstances of individuals.
As we navigate the current crisis, the transition to a new way of working presents both challenges and opportunities. A diverse leadership will be able to better assess the needs and circumstances of staff and clients who themselves are diverse in all of the traditional measures, and affected by widely varying life, work and family conditions.
For example, a recent report by the Institute of Fiscal Studies shows that women will be harder hit by the crisis than men: in the UK they are one third more likely than men to work in sectors that have shut due to the crisis.
Therefore, a company with a presence of female leadership will naturally be more inclined to recognize the unique challenges faced by women and implement contingency planning accordingly.
Adapting business models
Second, the current environment forces business to adapt and requires operational models to change drastically in a relatively short period of time in order to face the new realities. For example, assembly lines across various industries are being transformed in order to produce goods that are in short supply and shops are being altered to offer a wider range of first need goods.
As we face such exceptional challenges, the management in charge of changing course, their life and career experiences, can be as important as the course itself.
Inclusion is crucial
Third, the presence of diversity and the practice of inclusion is crucial to challenge organisations to look at problems differently and consider a wider range of issues and impacts that they might otherwise miss to consider. This, of course, is essential at any time, but this becomes critical in times of crisis.
For example, a study by the Harvard Business Review shows that teams are able to solve problems much faster when they are more cognitively diverse . This analysis found that cognitive diversity in teams, defined as differences in perspective or information processing styles, showed a high correlation with high performance.
Once the dust has settled on the current public health crisis, businesses will need to re-emerge, often transformed, to face the new realities. And here again, a diverse leadership is best placed to help pull the business.