Agility, Change management
The new C-Level – leadership in times of Corona

Table of contents

What has happened so far…

The world did not stand still in March this year, but it has slowed down considerably. A virus that was initially hardly taken seriously is forcing governments around the world to adopt measures to maintain health that we could not have imagined shortly before. Supply chains come to a standstill. Private and professional life take place in the same premises. Entire sectors are lying idle. Concern for our own health and that of our loved ones determines our actions in most situations throughout the day. In short: nothing is as it was before. And what will it be like tomorrow or the day after tomorrow? – No idea! Nobody knows what will happen next. And yet we still have to make decisions every day.

We are all experiencing the VUCA world in its purest form. The acronym VUCA means variability, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. That describes the uncertain current situation pretty well. Ultimately, in this new situation, we are all called upon to try things out, to experiment, to break new ground. As people and especially as a company!

It is (never) too early to take stock

It has been serious for six months and we are taking it seriously. The virus has completely changed everyday business life in many areas.
I would like to raise the following questions:

  • How has the current crisis affected the behavior of managers?
  • What kind of leadership has been successful in recent months?
  • And which managers have not yet found a way through and out of the crisis?
  • Are there significant differences?

Guided tour Corona

The usual suspects

What we are noticing in our consulting work these days: in companies that have a more traditional corporate and management culture, the need for control is increasing, risk analyses are being carried out and, without exception, cost-cutting programs are being set up. Not to be cynical here: of course there are some industries, such as the travel industry, where the aim is to keep things to a minimum in order to be able to grow again in another phase of this pandemic.
Nonetheless, many other companies do not need to downsize in this way; instead, they could use the opportunity to invent the future. Those companies that operate more classically concentrate on survival and nothing more. It is to be feared that this is exactly what they will get.

The shutdown has consequences:

Managers in these companies ensure that they have “formats” at hand that convey as much information as possible about services rendered and results achieved. This increases the reporting effort. Daily video conferences mainly focus on the progress of results.
Employees are finding that management is becoming increasingly distant from the team. The creativity and potential of the workforce is no longer being utilized. There is no progress, no development. The high security requirements mean that processes take longer. The necessary quick and unconventional decisions are not being made. In addition, working from home, split offices and virtual working do not exactly promote cohesion in traditional companies.
However, in my view, the adversities of the current situation should not be an excuse for not developing the courage to break new ground.


The new C Level

However, not all companies remain in a kind of rigidity; a surprisingly large number of companies are questioning their business model from the ground up. We try things out and experiment.
Where classically oriented managers merely ensure survival and spread a correspondingly anxious atmosphere, modern-oriented managers ensure that the corporate culture is developed in such a way that maximum trust and transparency can be experienced in the company. Why?
It’s not about proving that people in the office or working from home have achieved a lot, but about preparing the ground for finding new synergies and paths to success with the team. Instead of more regulations and more controls, this unusual phase will give employees the opportunity to try out new things and develop new models for how the company can become more successful. And yes, experiments can fail, otherwise it wouldn’t be an experiment.

Agile leadership

What is the procedure here? – Agile!

We observe that companies that rely on a modern, agile way of working are able to quickly install self-managing teams. These are constantly being formed anew and can submit new innovation proposals to management within ever shorter periods of time.
C-level management in these companies concentrates on observing the constantly changing framework conditions and assessing how to react at short notice. From this short-term assessment of the current situation, the C-level then provides the company with impulses that are implemented by the self-managing teams. And these teams are experimenting. Managers trust that experiments will be stopped in good time if the chosen path proves to be a mistake.
Virtual working and split offices are used in a completely different way here, and in a demand-oriented way. What does that mean? One coordination meeting after another is not scheduled every morning or stubbornly according to the agenda. Instead, there is a single meeting every week for an hour to discuss current trends, propose ideas and make decisions. Otherwise, meetings are only held when really necessary and the rest is communicated virtually.


The new Anders

Our everyday working life has changed: Split offices and virtual teams are new ways of working together. Video conferences are the order of the day. People meet virtually, look into a camera, make sure they get along well with the technical tools. And managers are asking themselves different questions than they were a few months ago:

  • Is our business model still viable for the future?
  • How do we have to adapt now to get through this time?
  • And how do we do all this virtually?

But that’s not all: managers should take a close look at how differently colleagues behave in leadership and what impact this has on the success of the respective team. And of course they should apply the same standards to their own behavior:
How does my leadership behavior differ from my behavior six months ago?
What exactly are the behaviors I need to exhibit now?



Those who only want to ensure economic survival will probably only achieve this. Those who trust, put colleagues in their place and encourage them to experiment have the chance to win.


Further reading:

In pandemic times, we are all working with as little personal contact as possible: Video conferences and Zoom meetings are the order of the day. Many customers have questions:

  • How does Zoom work?
  • What alternatives are there?
  • Which ones are good and fit our requirements?
  • How do we design online meetings that are fun instead of boring?
  • How does the technology work? What do I need at all?
  • Which online whiteboards are suitable for virtual collaboration?

We answer these questions – and many more – in detail in our article

Zoom Meeting & video conferencing: How it works, alternatives, tips


How do you reconcile online and on-site leadership?

Hybrid working – teamwork between home office & office: is it possible?


Our article on modern leadership:

Digital leadership – new times, new leadership!

The authors

Oliver Grätsch
Michelle 550
Michelle Templin
Christian Grätsch
Matthias Beikert
Susanne Grätsch
Monika Bt 550x550
Monika Steininger
Kai Hübner
Philipp Andresen 500x550
Philipp Andresen
Dr. Claudia Schmidt
Inga Kühn
Kassandra Knebel
Claudia Lehmann
Anna Isabell Arendt
Komplettes Team

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Berliner Team