In times of global conflict, organizations grapple with a crucial question: How should we respond? The intricacies of our interconnected world have elevated this issue to a level that leaders can no longer afford to overlook. A poorly executed response can inflict lasting damage on an employer’s reputation, whereas a well-handled one can reinforce trust and foster unity. It is during these challenging moments that CEOs and leaders must embrace vulnerability, recognize their capacity to make errors and align their actions with the organization’s core values while demonstrating empathy toward those they lead.

Acknowledge the Challenge

In the corporate hierarchy, CEOs are often expected to possess all the answers and radiate unwavering confidence. However, there is a transformative power in leaders acknowledging their vulnerability. Global conflicts are complex, often evoking feelings of sadness, anxiety and confusion in both individuals and leaders. By opening up and admitting that they, too, are grappling with the situation, CEOs can connect with their teams on a human level. Authenticity emerges when leaders say, “I don’t have all the answers, but I’m here to listen and learn.” When leaders express their emotions, it fosters an environment where employees feel heard and valued. Vulnerability in leadership can be a compelling force for unity and emotional support.

Accept That Mistakes Can Occur, but Don’t Stay Silent

In the rush to respond to a global conflict, CEOs and organizations may release communications that later prove to be inadequate or unsuitable. It’s crucial to understand that mistakes are an inevitable part of the process, but what truly matters is the willingness to address them. For any communications that may have missed the mark, leaders should be ready to admit their errors honestly and openly. They should actively listen to employees and solicit their feedback. It’s through these interactions that organizations can gain insight into how to do better in the future. Learning from mistakes is a sign of growth, and it reinforces the organization’s commitment to its values.

For organizations considering remaining silent, they should consider that what is not said can be as damaging as a poorly received communication. Employees look to their leaders for guidance and direction during difficult times. The absence of a response can create uncertainty and erode trust. Consequently, it is imperative to speak up even if it means acknowledging the challenge of addressing the issue effectively.

Start From Core Values

The foundation of any effective response during a global conflict lies in a deep understanding of an organization’s values and mission. In times of conflict, leaders ought to reflect on the company’s core beliefs and how best to uphold these values. By anchoring their response in their core values, leaders can ensure that their actions are consistent with the organization’s principles. This alignment is essential for maintaining credibility and trust with employees, customers and stakeholders.

It’s a prime opportunity to reaffirm the organization’s commitment to these values and to reflect on how they can be lived and demonstrated in a meaningful way. Actions speak louder than words, and when they resonate with the organization’s core values, they can drive positive change.

Consider the Individuals

Global conflicts can seem abstract and distant when communicated through official channels like email or town halls. However, it’s essential to remember that it is individuals who comprise the organization and these individuals are going through a range of experiences. Some may have personal connections to the event that make them more vulnerable; others may experience general worry and anxiety from exposure to news and social media. Recognizing these experiences, leaders should proactively reach out to employees and ask how they can provide support during this challenging time.

Whether it’s through counseling services, flexibility in work arrangements or any other form of support, demonstrating empathy and care for the well-being of employees is a critical leadership responsibility. Leaders should not just convey their commitment to the company’s values but also to the well-being of the people who bring those values to life.

Leading through global conflict is a significant challenge, but it’s one that CEOs and leaders must face head-on. Embracing vulnerability, acknowledging the possibility of making mistakes, aligning actions with core values and showing empathy to individuals are all integral parts of a successful response. In doing so, leaders can foster a culture of trust, resilience and unity, ensuring that their organizations emerge from global conflicts stronger and more connected than ever.

Jessica Foster is President of RHR International, a leading management consultancy firm that is a pioneer in the field of organizational psychology.


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