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Leadership in Times of a Pandemic: A Podcast with Viktor Bilyanski

Leadership in Times of a Pandemic: A Podcast with Viktor Bilyanski

Published on: 28 Apr 2020 5 min read

With the current crisis, what many leaders in many sectors are experiencing is a real challenge to their skills. Our CTO, Viktor Bilyanski, took part in DevCast, a community-driven podcast of Dev.BG, on the topic “Leadership In Times Of a Pandemic,” to talk about this exact issue. You can hear the whole podcast below, or keep reading to see the recap of the main points Viktor spoke about last week.


The Importance Of Authenticity

The first leadership-related questions had to do with the current pandemic and in what way the leadership now has to be more durable. Viktor elaborated that leadership is much more needed now, and there has to be visibility.

“The leader is someone who is capable of driving the people around him to the goal he believes in – the purpose he is sure he can accomplish. This is not an easy task, and this is what differentiates some leaders from others. The authentic leader is a sustainable one. Keeping your promises and making sure people’s trust is validated. If a leader is not authentic, he will not be one for long. In a pandemic, the sustainable leaders are of utmost importance.”

“There is a quote that says that rough seas make great captains, and I firmly believe that,” says Viktor.

He adds that he believes the problematic times will make everybody stronger in the future. Meanwhile, we have to deal with a situation none of us has expected. To join the fight against COVID-19, Scalefocus created ViruSafe, the application that gives a roadmap for the spread of the virus in Bulgaria with voluntarily given information by the users about their health status. Viktor got many questions about the security around ViruSafe and gave details on the idea of the solution.

“Our idea was to help pro-bono and maybe that way make the first step towards a new generation of e-solutions in the government and health systems – something that up until now has been hard to do.” He explained that ViruSafe is open source, and the community is already contributing – the app also already has over 50 000 downloads and of those, around 70-80% have used it per its purpose.

“We all know that people feel worried when they give their personal data. In the case of ViruSafe, your identification number, for example, goes to somebody that already has it – the government. No one from our side – the IT side, us, and the other 3 companies involved with the whole project – has access to the personal data of the users, and that goes for each type of data entered.”

You can hear more about the technical decisions and the general decisions around ViruSafe and its purpose in the recording.

Keeping The Morale Up

Viktor admits that, like many other companies, Scalefocus is also impacted by global change. “We’ve had some canceled projects and had to make some optimizations, but we believe that with a slight change in direction and priorities, companies can get out of this quicker,” Viktor says in a situation like the current one, it’s normal for leaders to have more expectations of people and the other way around.

He shares he notices a rise in productivity in the last weeks when everybody already worked from home.

He also spoke about what it’s like for Scalefocus to be a professional services company instead of a product one at this moment. “We are currently still working on a lot of projects, with a tremendous technological variety that inspires people who want to experiment. Our portfolio is big, and right now, we can be even more active in our pursuits, which gives us purpose and drive.”

When asked how does a company decides which people to keep or let go in such a hard moment, Viktor says that it’s always a question of who is the top performer. “Also, it’s essential to see what type of person the employee is – because someone can be a great performer, but contribute to a toxic environment and spread toxicity around.” Asked what he would do in such a situation, he answers that first, the leader needs to identify the person, and after trying to give feedback, context, and drive change, if change doesn’t come from the person, there is nothing more that can be done.

Is a Leader Born or Made?

Viktor states he believes in both. “To be a leader, first, you need to have the qualities for it, and they are innate. Second, having the qualities does not automatically make you a great leader – you need to be a team player and constantly learn together with your employees.”

“If you are a great leader, in time, you start seeing yourself multiplicated in your team. And that is the biggest proof that your methods work.”

Viktor says that even leaders have to develop themselves further continually. “Mistakes are important – if you are not making enough mistakes, you are not innovative enough. We need to be internally motivated and have the capacity for bigger things – those are the two most important things for a leader.”

When asked if a person can go to a leadership class or course, he says, of course. “But look carefully who the lector is. I believe people who have gone through entrepreneurship are the best teachers on how to be a leader. Not just the bookworms that translate what they have read and call it a mentorship. The added value and the biggest meaning in leadership comes from the shared experience.”

Listen to a lot more in the recording here.

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