What are the priorities for business leaders as lockdowns start to lift?

18 May 2020

We asked our partners around the world...




Neil Greco

Boston MA



As businesses look to ‘re-open’, there will be no exceptions to new ways of doing business. However, there will be variations on the paradigm shift by industry.  We have already seen the shift to work from home. In fact many global businesses have suggested the work from home shift is permanent. For example, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey commented in an email to employees that work from home is permanent even after the COVID-19 threat has been lifted. By comparison, Tesla CEO Elon Musk is threatening to leave California as he pushes to re-open production and bring factory workers back to the assembly line against State Governmental guidelines. CEO Jeff Bezos has returned to the helm of Amazon and shifted its priorities in package handling (critical care items first) and emphasizing the importance employee safety (investing $B’s) . Three different industries with brilliant leadership all with varying priorities. There is one constant – Agility. Each business has been able to pivot a large global organization in literally weeks. How? Transparency and Communication. Setting a plan, increasing message frequency, and being responsive has allowed large global businesses to remain on pace.

Business leaders of all sizes should have a plan, set goals and be agile as we shift from working under adverse conditions to new ways of doing business. Business leaders will need to check their personal awareness and increase emotional intelligence to their respective workforce. They would be well served to recognize we are still in times of uncertainty with unforeseen economic devastation around the globe. Leaders should strive to be empathetic, supportive and encourage positive thinking as we work through the next phase of the pandemic.




Mika Rossi




People in Finland have missed face-to-face meetings, but we hope to resume these in June. Priorities are clear in Finland. In the days to come we must:

  • Identify the needs of existing clients and plan ahead specifically from a post-COVID perspective
  • Listen carefully to clients and consumers
  • Businesses must adapt with new business strategies for the new post-COVID market
  • Ensure short-term cash flow and resources, ie exporting existing projects to the finish line and introducing new ones, even with some opportunism if necessary.




Lorri Lowe

London & Edinburgh



Priority One is the well-being of the people in the business. There is talk in the UK of a balancing act between lives and livelihoods, but such talk is not coming from business, it comes almost entirely from politicians. Every company with whom we have had contact is doing what it can to ensure the safety and health of its people. The issues for CEOs are therefore more of engagement, reassurance and communication with their employees and customers – and clarity in such communications is of paramount importance.

Making existential decisions in a crisis (where government guidance is lacking, or even at best conflicting) places more responsibility on CEOs. They are not only ensuring safety-first steps towards a resumption of business, but also running huge ER & PR campaigns to make it known that they are. Financial support has been made readily available and quickly accessible, so the need to generate revenues is, and will remain for some time yet, subordinate to saving lives. Lifting lockdown will be a slow phased process and CEOs are planning accordingly.




Pille Pass




This is the second large economic crisis in Estonia since 1991 and the actions taken now will again have huge impact in terms of how we can turn our economy to growth once again.

The crisis from Covid-19 has hit all sectors of business in Estonia, most of all tourism and the hotel/catering sector. After three months we are coping with the new situation and making new plans to restructure for the quickest recovery. It has also given time for analysis regarding how best to navigate organisations through these extremely challenging times. We believe that the Estonian economy should be restored to the level before the crisis by early next year.

The government has launched support measures to boost the economy and mitigate the effects of the crisis, but more is expected in certain sectors. For instance tourism has lost 99% of business, the building sector expects new building contracts from the state to compensate next year’s fall in construction capacity from the private sector.

Priorities now are:

  • Creating and maintaining workplace safety now and in the next wave of the virus
  • Organisation redesign to achieve operational effectiveness and resolve pain points
  • Company leaders are reviewing current operating models, as well as the vision and strategy of organisations. This involves analysis of potential changes in skill requirements, necessary reporting lines, governance structures, processes and improved ways of working (remote working);
  • Analysing markets, company financial data, supply chains
  • Financial support is available from commercial banks, the state-owned financial institution KredEx and state aid
  • Leaders are considering strategic opportunities over the longer term.



The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted nearly every corner of the world and disrupted daily life; every day there are more changes determining how we live and work.

Friisberg & Partners International is a long established, geographically distributed equity partnership with highly skilled partners, consultants and research teams in 40 of the world’s major cities offering executive search and leadership consultancy, in context, around the globe. We are highly effective in combining local knowledge with genuinely global capability.

We draw on the benefits of our diversity, bringing together people from many cultures with varied market experiences and different perspectives for strategic and organisational challenges. Never before have we faced a crisis of this magnitude, but our commitment to each other and to our clients remains constant.

If you have a question about business leadership you would like to put to Friisberg’s Partners, then please email Lorri Lowe, Partner, Friisberg UK: l.lowe@friisberg.com


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