Leadership Through These Strange Times

Overcoming the ‘Stress Test’ of COVID-19

Forensic & Litigation Consulting

April 3, 2020

Red Peg

Much has been written, and much more is being learned every day, about the expectations and desired attributes of leaders during the COVID-19 crisis.

Prior to this crisis, corporate conversations were already moving towards the need for a greater sense of corporate purpose. This generally translates into increased transparency in respect of corporate beliefs and actions that are tied to environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues – to people wanting to belong to something bigger than themselves and stakeholders wanting to know what organizations are doing to influence social and political issues and to face up to broader societal challenges.

The essence of corporate purpose can be defined as “why we exist” – what do we want to give, how do we make meaning in the world and how do we contribute beyond traditional means. It is about how we humanise our organisations.

Covid-19 has, in a few short weeks, put this thinking to the test in very practical terms in an extremely challenging environment. One could scarcely imagine a more effective stress test for “good” leadership than coronavirus. It is obvious that a conventional leadership playbook relying on hierarchy and control won’t enable the kind of agility and speed needed to deal with the unexpected.

The Demands of the Time

Psychologists refer to the need, in times of crisis, for cognitive complexity in leadership. This is the ability to draw on multiple frames of reference or intelligences at the same time.


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Petrus Marais

Senior Managing Director, Head of South Africa Forensic & Litigation Consulting