Boss Day, October 16, 2020: Leadership in a post-COVID tumultuous world

The Canadian Business Resilience Network brings together a vast network of over 450 chambers of commerce and boards of trade and more than 100 of Canada’s leading business and industry associations, from all regions and sectors of the economy. This network represents diverse viewpoints, and the CBRN blog provides a platform to share ideas with other members of the business community and the federal government. The opinions expressed in this blog post do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of CBRN or the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.

By Faith Goodman
CEO, Goodman Sustainability Group and Founder VeriStell Institute

It seems unnerving that Boss Day 2020 is falling during the second wave of COVID 19 in Canada.  What should we expect from the Boss?  We are operating our businesses in a time of unrelenting uncertainty and complexity.  It seems some days our only certainty is the trust we have in our families and friends – our anchors. 

But even in these chaotic times, new research indicates that employees and consumers increasingly see their CEO as someone they trust – sometimes even more than governments or not-for-profits.  They expect their CEO to provide leadership on vital societal challenges – to provide safe harbor.  This growing trust in corporate leadership is both a risk and an opportunity. The risk is that leaders will fall short of expectations – that they will break the trust. The opportunity is to embrace it and step forward boldly; to take a stand on important issues of the day: climate change, homelessness, hunger, income inequality, racism, gender issues, and others.   The new reality is that waiting on the sidelines is no longer an option.

Taking a stand does not need to undermine profitability and competitiveness.  In fact, genuine engagement provides a risk cushion. The research points to unmistakable stakeholder trends. Stakeholders will turn to and stay loyal to brands with a genuine commitment to ESG (Environment Social Governance) – and those with a well-defined corporate purpose. Increasingly, they will buy from, invest in and work for brands that are sustainable and are a force for good in their communities. 

Today’s increasing requirement that firms demonstrate a credible ESG performance is a steep hill for many.   Those leaders (Bosses) who embrace this opportunity will provide their brands with the best chance of competitive advantage.  This is the new normal: leaders leading in a way that enables both their businesses and their stakeholders to thrive.   In this environment, trust is the currency of long-term competitiveness.

As you think about leadership and Boss Day, be aware of the new opportunity that stakeholder trust opens up for you; and be aware that failure to adapt may become your biggest risk.