My take on leadership during Covid-19

LJ Swart Oxigen Communications CEO

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As Managing Partner of a marketing & sponsorship agency, the last few weeks have been immensely challenging, different, exciting, scary and tiring on so many different levels – as I\’m sure has been the experience for everyone. We are all finding our own ways of navigating through the global pandemic that is COVID-19. We have been lucky with some amazing clients but also took a hit with those operating in industries that are under severe pressure during this time (entertainment and events industry, sport…etc.). I thought I\’d share some of the things I have found to work well in our internal business environment, with client relationships, and in general external communication.


1.) Be Transparent: With your staff, your clients and your suppliers. Everyone is going through this pandemic. EVERY SINGLE PERSON is impacted by this. I believe that the worst thing any leader or company can do is go mute during this period. Share your concerns, opportunities and the facts with staff and be direct when necessary. This creates an authentic environment that entices dialogue and reduces anxiety.

2.) Stay Informed: Ensure you know exactly how COVID-19 affects your business from a rules and regulations point of view. Ensure the same for your clients and their businesses. Read enough about the opportunities and the must-have information around the facts and stats of the pandemic. One can easily go down the rabbit hole which might not be beneficial to your focus, your energy levels, and your impact. Acknowledge the challenge while focusing on what you can control on both an internal and external level.

3.) One on Ones: Constantly have one-on-one telecon sessions with your staff (over and above your group sessions), to ensure you understand their challenges, fears, and doubts. They\’ve got you and have supported you up to here – do not let the lockdown. and COVID-19 in general, put any distance between you or affect your relationships. They need you more than ever, so make time – this is your most important community now and hopefully post-Coronavirus as well.

4.) Smaller Chunks / Larger Impact: To ensure you and your company stay focused, break tasks into smaller chunks but aim for larger impact. Ask yourself these questions: How would this impact what we and our clients aim to achieve in a tangible way? Structure one big \”win\” per client per week that directly addresses the \”now\” and \”here\”. More focus, more research, more accuracy.

5.) Your Sixth Sense: All good leaders have a \”gut\” to follow. We don\’t always get it right, hell we don\’t get it right that often maybe, but during the pressure situations time is limited and the need to be decisive is amplified – trust yourself, back yourself and do it with conviction. Ensure your clients see the confidence and guidance they need. Give them more \”tell\” less \”ask\”. They do not have time to hold your hand as an agency. They need you to take control of your responsibilities and guide them – that\’s your job.

6.) Keep Boundaries: It is easy for internal and external communication boundaries to be shifted during this work-from-home lockdown period. As a leader, we know certain tasks can\’t wait until tomorrow but set boundaries to protect your staff and yourself. Good planning and processes normally take care of this and if these are not implemented already, now is the time to streamline and polish.

7.) Be the Fixer: Without contradicting on point number 6, now is the opportunity to show your clients that they need you in their corner, that they can take on the world if you are right there with them to fight this battle. Be adaptable, proactive and accurate, whether you\’re are a freelancer, a large agency or a small agency of 15 people like us. Put up your hand, be there, have a thick skin, make plays, and don\’t sit on the bench – oh please, don\’t sit on the bench. These are the big leagues. What you are now what you are facing, partaking in, and solving is… Ali vs Frasier, it\’s Augusta National (and it\’s Sunday afternoon), The Emmys, The Oscars, this is as big as it gets… PLEASE DO NOT SIT ON THE BENCH get in, stay in!

8.) Don\’t Lose Yourself: Working from home, worried about your job, your company, your influence, your impact…all of this can easily overwhelm. Somewhere in the middle of all this is the most important element, and that\’s you. All these external factors, influences, and elements are out of your control – know it, accept it, believe it and manage it. Find your time to recharge daily, hourly, whatever works for you. The threat is real but you, your calling, your passion and general happiness are all way more important. Meetings come and go, pandemics come and go, but you have one life with many different seasons. This season might not be a great one but it is your season and you will never have it over again, no minute, hour or day – make it count.


Good luck to all you leaders out there, may you push through, find the opportunities within COVID-19, but more importantly find yourself and hold on to yourself because tomorrow or the day after or years later COVID-19 will be gone – but you can still be here.


LJ Swart,

Oxigen Communications

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