Resilient leadership: A business survival trait in the face of calamity

  • Resilient leaders are able to rapidly devise and convey the ‘next-steps’ to staff
  • An entrepreneur that does not observe good self-care will experience a decline

After the pat on the back and encouraging words from family and friends, to steer and adjust your sails, the entrepreneur begins to discover multiple forces that are beyond their control. This is where grit, persistence kick in to ensure the survival of the fittest.

Resilient leadership: A business survival trait in the face of calamityAll Hail The Entrepreneur!

The word entrepreneur conjures a myriad of meaning and this is evident by the reaction one receives when voicing their intention to walk on the road less travelled. Budding entrepreneurs are commended for their passion, bravery, vision, creativity, grit, agility, fortitude and resourcefulness. Their first steps are celebrated by friends and loved ones, often with a pat on the back and words of encouragement by those who have never been on that downtrodden path.

The realities of entrepreneurship are felt soon after. The glorified startup culture immediately feels undecorated. The idea of ‘starting on the right foot’ is crudely greeted by a strong tide that sets the business in the opposite direction. As you struggle to steer and adjust your sails, you begin to discover multiple forces that are beyond your control. Your fancy title is of not much use. You are low on cash; earning a minimum wage is a luxurious thought. Your family and friends cannot understand your struggles, making it near impossible to turn to anyone for motivation and support. You feel frustrated, crushed and defeated.

At this tipping point, the weak will retreat and withdraw from the game, akin to an injured ant that is blown off a branch by a gust of wind and unceremoniously forgotten by the colony. On the contrary, a true entrepreneur will soldier on, day after day, in good and turbulent times, trusting their gut, taking calculated risks, keeping their flame of passion burning and above all, fighting with sheer determination. Plainly, entrepreneurship is a battle of the fittest. But there is more…


Resilience: An Entrepreneurial Requisite

In my 30-year career as a finance professional, multinational corporate chieftain and entrepreneur, I have experienced countless nerve-wracking challenges but COVID-19 is a battle of epic proportions. This pandemic has brought the world to a standstill and it has even given crisis management experts a run for their money.

My current capacity at MDEC places me at a vantage point to experience the inner-mental working of prolific Malaysian entrepreneurs who have all had humble beginnings and inexpressible hardships. I have seen them build their brick and mortar businesses that erratically crumbled along the way, and rebuilt over and again. Not only did every challenge sharpen their business acumen, their tenacity and perseverance have bestowed them with the ultimate entrepreneurial trait: Resilience.

Below are my five observations of resilient leaders in our business community, which could give us a boost of motivation and courage to fight the COVID-19 onslaught. By learning and applying some of these actions, the recovery span of your business could be significantly shorter when normalcy resumes:

1. Eyes on True North

Resilient leaders will never waiver from their quest to be a successful entrepreneur and will remain resolute to the purpose of their business. When confronted by a crisis, they swiftly shut non-critical functions of their business and channel all resources to stabilise the organisation. As operations come to a halt and movement is restricted, resilient leaders dedicate time and genuine effort on online networking to forge closer ties with their talent pool and stakeholders (customers, partners, funders, mentors, authorities, etc). They also have a keen eye on business opportunities that are lurking amid the chaos, which is promptly tapped if deemed suitable.

2. Pace over Perfection

Resilient leaders are sprinters in decision-making and execution. Speed is an indication of an organisation’s ability to adapt to change and is crucial to the financial health and sustenance of a business. When push comes to shove, there is no need for pomp and splendour – this is specific to the context of communication. Resilient leaders are able to rapidly devise and convey the ‘next-steps’ to their employees and leverage on all communication channels to ensure their stakeholders are brought up to speed on the organisation’s approach to the crisis.

3. Reinvent & Pivot

In volatile economic conditions, resilient leaders look for open doors rather than fixating on what has closed. They contemplate on what can be done instead of adopting a ‘wait and see’ attitude. At an opportune moment, a resilient leader will unleash his/her survival prowess and muster the courage to make a fundamental change to the business model despite having insufficient market data. The ability to be agile and nimble allows for erroneous decisions to be quickly corrected. This is the essence of entrepreneurialism.

4. Empathetic and Compassionate

Resilient leaders are able to sense the emotional pulse of their people and stakeholders. They have a high level of awareness on the impact of their actions and potential consequences on the business and society. With their calm and collected demeanour, resilient leaders welcome conversations from the heart and engage on a personal level with those in need of emotional support and encouragement during trying times. Naturally, what is promoted internally will radiate externally - your employees, customers, communities and ecosystem will know that you have their best interests at heart.

5. Physical & Mental Health

To operate optimally under difficult circumstances, resilient leaders rarely crack under pressure. They religiously incorporate the 3Rs in their daily routine - refuel, rest and recover before firing-up again to ensure their business is in order. An entrepreneur that does not observe good self-care will experience a decline

in cognitive skills and the ability to make sound decisions and judgements. This can have an adverse effect on the business, jeopardising their reputation and risk losing all that they have built over the years. Health should never be compromised.


What’s Next?

In the subsequent installment of #GopiSpeaks, I will delve into pivoting your business; a much talked about topic in the recent weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic. While easier said than done, I am a living example of person who reinvented himself three times over the span of three decades. Each fresh beginning offered a multitude of opportunities that propelled me to unimaginable pastures. I encourage all entrepreneurs to put on your thinking caps and bring your best game to the court. Together, we will brave this storm and emerge victorious!

Gopi Ganesalingam, Vice President, Global Growth Acceleration at Malaysian Digital Economy Corporation, is a qualified finance professional with over 30 years of professional experience in Finance, Commercial and Business Development.

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