Charlotte Street Partners



Follow the leader

Written by Katie Stanton, associate partner
28 March 2020

Good morning,

Contrary to what Blaise Pascal and his philosopher pals may say, I’m finding solitude to be largely uninspiring. Intense feelings of claustrophobia intermingle with a growing distaste for those around me; like stale milk diffusing in a mug of tea, before long the former renders the miserable beige brew wholly unpalatable.  
You see, I have opted to socially distance in a house full of people. I left London on the threat of impending lockdown and was urged by friends (now discredited) to get the heck out of there.
That was two weeks ago. Two solid weeks of family time later – dog walks and rubbish telly, chit chat and incessant washing up (why is there always so much washing up?) – and there’s no end in sight. Add to that the worry of grandparents in varying states of decay and isolation dispersed across the country, and you’ve got yourself a pretty toxic stew.
In particular, I’m finding big picture thinking to be a challenge, even on my daily state-sponsored exercise, would you believe? And I don’t think I’m alone. Mental noise – such as media or social media – in high-stress situationsreduces our ability to process information by 80% on average.
Great leaders are able to cut through that noise, to provide the clarity and direction for which we all yearn.
For companies, the behaviour of their leaders today will define their reputations long into the future. This crisis doesn’t exist in a silo, after all; it is a moving part of an interconnected, digital world – one that doesn’t forgive easily and definitely doesn’t forget.
It is also unprecedented, unwieldy and unpredictable, so defining good leadership can feel like a fool’s errand. We may not truly know until this is all over and for now, we’re all just trying to muddle through.
But there has been a lot of good commentary over the past few days on what great leadership looks like, so this week we decided to bring you the pick of the bunch.

We may have to prepare for a longer coronavirus crisis

This headline may echo your worst fears but read on, it’s worth it. Laurence Boone, chief economist at the OECD, argues that chief executives need to think beyond short-term, targeted responses which are simply not suited to this crisis. For it is not the same temporary shock of the 2008 crash and it is not a war with an end point – it is an unknown.

To counteract this lack of direction, Boone advises leaders to lean as much as possible on the advice and support being provided by government.

Read in the Financial Times.

Look to the helpers’ for leadership in coronavirus crisis

Still, it’s not as simple as just being an authority figure. In fact, Viv Groskop suggests that those who attempt to project puffed-up power are not the people to trust. Psychologists advise people in crisis to ‘look to the helpers’, those calmly offering support, those with a personal stake in their happiness and survival.

Essentially, if you keep your cool and try to help, you’ll divert the overwhelming feeling of anarchy.

Read in the Financial Times.

The boardroom must share the financial pain of employees

It’s also important to shoulder the burden. Cash is king for businesses currently and all lines of credit will be called upon to get companies through the crisis. It makes sense then that this pain be shared in the boardroom. According to Ben Marlow, bosses should demonstrate solidarity with their workforce and take a pay cut.

Read in The Telegraph.

Covid-19 is putting the public good back at the heart of commerce

In an upbeat take, John Oxley pictures a kinder form of capitalism post-corona. Praise thus far has been showered on those small acts of decency that make a real difference – from nurses and doctors, to local volunteers who help elderly neighbours get the shopping in.

Many companies have responded in exemplary fashion. Businesses have rushed to support the effort, declaring a desire to absorb the economic hit instead of passing it to employees. This piece will leave you feeling warm and fuzzy, at least for a little while.

Read in City AM.

Top five leadership challenges during the coronavirus pandemic

For more straight advice, Nihar Chhaya is a great place to start. He offers answers to questions like: how do I offer answers when none exist and, how do I keep my team engaged while working remotely?

Read in Forbes.

The best of the rest

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