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Leadership and Culture After COVID-19

By César Marrón - Cardinal Health
Director General


César Marrón By César Marrón | Director General - Wed, 03/03/2021 - 12:56

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Even though norms, values, assumptions and behaviors are deeply rooted within organizations, COVID has changed the corporate culture. Some organizations have recognized the humanitarian crisis of the pandemic and prioritized the well-being of employees as people over employees as workers.

Global leaders of the healthcare sector see distinct cultural pathways emerging as organizations respond and recover together with their employees. Each pathway requires that leaders assess where an organization is, plan and act decisively to drive positive cultural change and restart growth.

This pandemic has raised the level of importance of having trust in each other to be successful in whatever is the mission of the company. It has also emphasized our interconnectedness as well as our responsibilities to each other. The emotional challenges in the workforce now are a priority. Employers must first prioritize psychological safety because employees’ emotional framework is fragile.

Every organization and culture are different, and so are the circumstances or character of every individual employee. Many will come back emotionally fatigued. Sometimes, the same people have experienced different emotions, happiness or unhappiness at different times. Productivity for some employees may have increased; for others, it has declined. Motivation could have faded out.

In this crisis, leaders will choose either to stay on the sideline and watch as the ballgame unfolds or put their helmet on and jump onto the field to engage and lead. Those who have carefully honed a sense of company purpose will find in its foundation a set of values that can guide critical and decisive action. On the other hand, others might view this situation like the first step toward deliberately re-defining their corporate purpose. Engaging people will be the key.

Leaders must consider how their culture will help them navigate the new reality and then take advantage of the strengths of their culture to develop new ways to win in the marketplace. Keep your employees’ emotions and feelings in mind. If you pay close attention to the workplace, you can often see emotional signals.

Reinforce the internal communication — you must hear the full voice of the employees (Listen with Empathy) in order to recap their performance. This process will inform the strategic plan and supporting priorities to get back on track. Understand what employees need to change to help the company to be successful. Be supportive with your group of leaders.

Develop positive psychological environments and put its attention point on what people have, what they are doing well and build around strengths. Try to recover the meaning of teamwork and develop goals that go beyond oneself.

The new virtual norm requires leaders to build trust like never before. Employees who trust their leaders, and each other, will be successful in fulfilling the company’s mission and tasks. It could be a good idea to do special projects together or build diverse groups in order to start the motivation engine. Work closely with your human resources head to develop simple and practical learning processes.

Martin Seligman, the father of positive psychology, developed a model of well-being that consists of five elements that characterize happy people:

Positive emotions





Leading in crisis is never easy, but hard times always provide significant lessons for company identity. Credibility is essential to re-connect people’s souls and the organization. There has never been such a challenge where leaders have had to deal with complexity, people management, decision-making and innovation at the same time and as a priority.

Having said this, I recommend two cultural pathways that organizations and leaders should transition into to invoke real change.

  1. Disruptive & Strengthened:

The crisis can be an opportunity for your organization to further disrupt or differentiate. Be a “resilient visionary” and spread your confidence among your leaders and people. Invest, be aggressive and impart a winning approach. Let employees feel that we are emerging stronger the pandemic.

  1. Adaptive & Recalculating: 

The Smartphone model set the crisis as an opportunity for evolution and growth. Welcome the cultural transformation and develop an adaptive leadership mindset.

Company cultures that were already in transformation prior to the pandemic can now be seeded with new possibilities and develop adaptive leadership mindsets. For these organizations, the crisis can be a catalyst for evolution or even growth. As a leader, try to question cautiously and don’t push so much. Be flexible.

Leaders must show that with complex, messy, systemic, interconnected problems like responding to COVID-19 or the next pandemic, collaboration must escalate as a central value in producing new, better and innovative adaptability in order to revamp performance. This pandemic has given leaders the opportunity to make an indelible mark with human support and empathy, and purpose is greater than it has ever been. The end of the pandemic could be an opportunity to transcend as a leader.

Photo by:   César Marrón

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