THOUGHT LEADERSHIP IN A TIME OF PROFOUND UNCERTAINTY
This edition of CEO Middle East was supposed to be focused on sustainability, health and CSR. And, in the main part, it is, although not in the way that I or anyone could have predicted just a few short months ago when I was planning the editorial content for 2020. The beginning of the year now seems like a lifetime ago, and unfortunately for many businesses and individuals trying to make ends meet during the Covid-19 pandemic, the next few months are going to test them as never before.
The year has not, to say the least, gone according to plan.
As I write this from my dining room table, most of the planet is on lockdown. All but the most essential businesses have closed their premises, with distance working the new strategy for those who work on computers.
Across the United Arab Emirates, as with much of the world, ‘social distancing’ has become the new normal and #stayhome, the global message urging people to remain inside unless absolutely necessary seems finally to have taken hold.
But – as with any crisis – it will pass, and it is the things that business leaders and individuals do now that can help determine the outcome once we are all allowed to resume normal life. Leaders need to act now to protect their employees and customers, taking preemptive action against challenges to liquidity.
Many businesses that are able to offer something back to the communities that they operate in have done so. Gyms are offering free online videos, some schools have - finally - started reducing their term three fees and big companies are donating funds to those hardest-hit. Others are donating their production resources, as the LVMH Group has done with its perfume factories, that are now devoted to producing large quantities of hand sanitiser to distribute to over-stretched French medical facilities.
From offering contactless delivery, to waiving loan or bank payments temporarily, there is a huge amount of goodwill that can be earned, safeguarding future customer loyalty when we finally wake up to our new normal.
Although the word has been used to the point of being worn out, these really are unprecedented times and not everyone has got it right. From tone-deaf promotions that make light of the crisis, to cynical attempts to make money from people’s fears, the backlash in our social media-led world can be instantaneous, as food delivery app Zomato found out to its detriment after trying to sell cleanliness ratings to already beleaguered restaurants.
There are many really insightful opinion pieces in the edition, penned by men and women whose thought leadership is much needed guidance at this time.
While the temptation is to focus solely on the global pandemic, we’ve also given editorial space to leaders in myriad fields, to shine an insightful light on how they are leading their businesses today.
Our cover star this month, serial investor and entrepreneur, Shailesh Dash, offers a characteristically upbeat view on how 2020 can still come good and how his companies are responding to their own clients.
It’ll be interesting to see how the trend for flexible working gains traction after this is all over, and it’s likely to be one of many longlasting changes brought about by the virus.
In the mean time, #stayhome, stay safe and look after your mental health as much as possible. We will look back on this with bewilderment and disbelief sooner that it seems, and everyone will have a role to play in redefining our lives post-Covid 19.