How leaders can better face global challenges

Global issues have made people closer to each other than before
Challenges and difficulties are an integral part of life, and what determines our success or failure is how we deal with them.

It’s usually said that the level of your responsibility depends on the level of your position, and that determines what you need to give of your time, energy, knowledge, and sometimes your life. 

Challenges and difficulties are an integral part of life, and what determines our success or failure is how we deal with them. Who among us does not aspire to be a prominent person, great in stature, in a prestigious position and high rank as a leader, director, minister, or even a head of state? These roles may have certain perks but they also lead to more responsibilities and challenges.

As humans, we don’t all have the same level of energy, capabilities, patience, and sacrifice. Leadership isn't only an esteemed position, but also a life's purpose and mission that is greater than just a title or a chair that we occupy. There are five levels of leadership as presented by John C. Maxwell, a world-renowned leadership expert, speaker, and author. Maxwell is one of the best-selling authors of the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Businessweek. The online platform Leadership Gurus has called him “the premier leadership expert” in the world.

After the COVID-19 pandemic, which drove the world’s concerted efforts to deal with this crisis, it became increasingly clear that a challenge on a global scale has made people, communities, and countries work together closer than ever. A case in point, today we travel from one continent to the other, and find that we all have become interconnected in many ways, not only because of  technology but also because changes in one country’s economy can have a direct impact on the economy of another, even if the country is halfway around the world. This has forced most leaders from around the world to come together to deal with common global challenges such as the development of the COVID-19 vaccine and addressing the global impact of climate change.

What can leaders do to better face important global challenges?

  • Develop their interpersonal skills and practical capabilities related to the nature of their work. Such as effective communication, strategic thinking, decision-making, as well as prioritizing emotional intelligence in order to become more effective and efficient leaders.
  • Inspire and motivate their teams in their organization to ensure they’re behind a common purpose, are aligned to the greater goal, and are aware of the global impact of their work. Constantly coaching, supporting, and developing teams will also make them work more effectively and in line with strategy.
  • Leading and implementing change requires leaders to know how to mitigate risks, overcome resistance to change, and deal with any reactions to change. These skills are critical to influence others to embrace change.
  • Use relationship management, existing policies, and the current nature of work environments effectively. Also, to work across borders successfully requires leaders to have positive relationships with their counterparts in other parts of the world, which also includes understanding the varying systems and nature of their workplaces.

Any crisis that occurs in any part of the world provides lessons leaders can learn from, such as how to better deal with crises and shape better processes and systems. The COVID-19 pandemic provided a platform for leaders to express their feelings and concerns, as was the case in the United Kingdom. This was referenced by Matthias Burke, global director of partner development at White & Case and assistant professor of leadership at New York University in his interview with Forbes. Burke mentions “the ability to allow feelings to exist without having to change, resist or judge them. There have been environments where people feel compelled and open to bring their full selves to work, which in turn will lead to deep, meaningful connections, honest conversations, and a willingness to open up to all possibilities that arise when we appear to be our full selves [we don't hide our problems, our anxieties, our fears].”

Talking of leaders’ handling of crises, it’s worth noting Saudi Arabia's leadership in handling the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which was characterized by creativity and effectiveness. The leadership of the Kingdom took proactive steps since the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz is most adept in crisis management, both locally and abroad. His Highness Prince Mohammed bin Salman also helped establish a global model for crisis management that could be emulated elsewhere.

The Kingdom quickly realized the magnitude of the danger and was ahead of all countries in the measures it took to address the pandemic, and exemplified great leadership in its handling of the pandemic. The response was smart and quick, as it allocated SAR177 billion to support the health sector, the private sector, and individuals. This figure was approximately 18% of the state's general budget. In addition, the Kingdom helped all Saudi citizens stranded abroad at a time when international flights were suspended, and amounts to a great example of effective crisis management and demonstrating the safety of citizens as  its main priority. As a result of this swift response and subsequent actions, Saudi Arabia is among countries that have the lowest rate of daily new confirmed COVID-19 cases.

Leaders have to be comfortable with challenging situations, whether they're facing a worldwide pandemic, exploring a changing economic landscape, or anticipating the impact of climate change. It’s important to be aware when you or your organization is facing a difficult time, identify what the internal and external obstacles are, and create a plan to address these challenges. A leader must always be ready to take risks with new strategies, or even adopt plans that have proved to be successful in the past.

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