How has leadership changed in 2020?

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Undoubtedly, 2020 has and continues to present a particular set of challenges that no one had predicted. Yet, it is when facing a threat  of any kind that leadership can transform outcomes.

Agility, vision, clarity and confidence, these are just some of the qualities that we have seen and heard among the region’s business leaders as they faced the challenges this year has brought them.

Hazlewoods Business Advisers and Chartered Accountants, Director, Felicity Sang, reviews these qualities and addresses the question: what does it take to lead a #BusinessForTomorrow?


Business leaders and senior management teams are facing fast-paced decision making with multiple unknowns. This needs adaptive leadership, described by the Harvard Business Review as needing anticipation, articulation, adaptation and accountability. All these traits and skills link back to learning, questioning and decisiveness.

This agility has seen companies change routes to market, adapt their workforce, meet new Government guidelines and survive. In many cases, businesses are now needing to revisit decisions made earlier this year and question whether they are still right for their business, particularly as we now face a new lockdown period. Not every action will have been right the first time, but keeping key areas such as people, cost and competition, under regular review will help maintain agility.


What makes a leader stand out, is often their vision to see beyond today and look to the future. A vision of better things to come and of changes. This vision usually includes how to get there too, but with so much uncertainty that may not be as clear now as it could have been previously. Back in the summer, we looked at how to focus on your business purpose in a changing market.

This has continued to grow in importance for leaders, not only to have that vision and ambition, but to take their customers and employees on that journey with them. Now is the time for increased communication and transparency. The focus still needs to be on what makes your business different and how to stay true to that, despite managing costs and your workforce.


 The art of having a clear and easy to understand strategy. Easier said than done. The difference between getting clarity can rest in having the right management information, which is vital. At Hazlewoods, we produce bespoke business reports and insights for company’s specific metrics. This tailored approach gives leaders clarity on business performance and helps to identify where profits are generated or lost.

We support many businesses whereby they outsource key operational areas, such as maintaining ledgers, management accounts, VAT, payroll and then tapping into our experts when they need more strategic support. This enables businesses to manage overheads, which allows leaders to focus on driving the business forward. Using cloud accounting tools such as Xero, QuickBooks or sector specific platforms, can also give clarity with real-time information.

Confident leaders

 Whether businesses have been restructuring or scaling back operations, or managing a time of fast growth, business leaders have needed confidence in the path they have chosen for their business.  Leaders have also needed to trust not only themselves, but also their peers, Government, employees and advisers, bringing their input into key decision-making processes whether in a period of growth or when taking protective measures.

It is invaluable to have a wide range of opinions and perspectives and in 2019, our magazine explored the topic of generations in business and it could be that many businesses are missing out on the perspectives of younger generations by not including their input in key management decisions.  At a time when all businesses are looking to manage costs, confident leaders will also be looking at how they get future talent into the business, without incurring immediate high costs. This could be an ideal time for the Government Kickstart Scheme or using the Apprenticeship Levy.

Luke Farajallah, CEO at Specialist Aviation Services spoke to us about how they have approached leadership through the pandemic and stated: “Having a clear plan is a great thing, being absolutely wedded to a plan is a dangerous thing because you have to flex as the environment changes around you.

“At SAS, one of the UK’s leading providers of Helicopter Air Ambulances and associated services, we were following a clear plan and strategy at the start of 2020. As the pandemic struck and then decimated the aviation industry we realised quickly we would have to focus far less on the long-term, and our planning focus shifted from years, to a new horizon of months, and even weeks and days as things got much worse.

“We fell back on our guiding principles of ‘Safety first, second, and last’, we over-communicated to our people and customers, we switched quickly to using new technology where it was helpful, and we knuckled down to protect cash and lower costs – at the same time as continuing to serve the nation with critical emergency services.

“As the next phase of the pandemic starts to bite, we are a stronger business, we are more resilient and confident as business leaders, and we have adopted the principle of planning for the worst case as a matter of course. As a previous mentor of mine once said, ‘if your problem is the size of an orange, you need a solution the size of a football’. It’s good advice at the moment.”


 If we return to the question ‘what does it take to lead a #BusinessForTomorrow?’, the answer may include ‘an open mind’. Open to challenge, open to new perspectives and open to learning.

If you would like to discuss how we can help you and your business, then get in touch with Felicity Sang on 01242 680000 or

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Hazlewoods Leadership changed in 2020