The pandemic has certainly changed our world substantially. These changes are continuing and evolving and likely to affect us permanently. Although businesses are opening back up little by little, more people are unemployed than at any time since the Great Depression of the 1930’s. It is also clear that there is an uneven impact of the crisis around the globe and at home. Presently, some industries have been hit extremely hard. Other industries like big tech, food manufacturing and telecommunications appear to be thriving through the crisis, even with the obvious changes employees have had to undergo to meet demand. Geographic locations are also influencing how we are experiencing this pandemic. In communities with fewer cases, some question whether shutdowns are necessary. In hard hit cities, we see leaders calling for longer lockdowns and more stringent safety precautions. Uncertainty abounds.
Disruption is a catalyst for re-imagination and re-invention. The disruption of the pandemic is so deep that even companies and industries feeling relatively unscathed right now, know that deeper impacts will be felt in the future. We are witnessing the beginnings of epic changes and shifts. Authoritative, top down leadership has not been as effective as in the past. Collaborative and flexible thinking is helping organizations do much better during these trying times. Policies that allow employees to work remotely from home and a slow step by step approach to safely returning back to work are contributing to productivity, security and trust in leadership.
Education is undergoing radical shifts as well. Homeschooling children can be challenging, time consuming and exhausting. People are wondering more than if schools will open in the fall and concerned about how they can open safely. This creates the need for schools to develop novel and effective methods to do so. Uncertainty abounds here too.
There is no denying that this is the most challenging period we have faced in some time. For many leaders, and the organizations, groups or even individuals they are charged to lead, the future is uncertain, resources seem scarce, and they are experiencing a continuing weariness. Our instincts might be telling us to turn away from others, protect ourselves and conserve our energy. But we need to do what we can to prepare for what is ahead. It is important to not let a panicked or over-reactive mindset unduly influence our actions and internal dialogue.
Now is the time to step up to serve and support your family, your co-workers and your community. Be a good leader by contributing your energies to ease the difficulties of this situation. Your contribution in these times can come in many forms: a listening ear; helping a friend, neighbor or even a stranger; promoting a culture of flexibility with your staff; volunteering; making a donation to a person, family or nonprofit in need; and in so many more ways. Be creative in your giving of yourself. The more we come together in service to one another, the better the world we can help to create.
History shows us that great disruption is often followed by epic innovation. You can discover practical ways to grow as a leader right now by understanding what the past can teach us about the present and the future. Change is challenging for all of us. One essential leadership practice to keep at the forefront is openness. How willing are you to imagine, accept, and implement new ways of thinking, working, and being?
As you reflect on all that is unfolding, consider how you want to grow, evolve, and contribute. There are growing movements in society to push thinking about what life can be like in a post-COVID world. Thoughtful leaders are asking not to bring the economy and our communities back as they were, but to reinvent them in ways that make them stronger and more equitable. Protesters are creating a sense of urgency around healing divisions and resolving inequalities. We all have different beliefs and thoughts around what the best change for our society will be at this time. That is not only okay but important in an inclusive and free world. It is not helpful to deny that change is happening. Good leaders seek to influence outcomes and inspire others during challenge, change, and chaos. Stay open and stay of service. By engaging in thoughtful, helpful, valuable ways we will shape a new normal and write a better future
Being a leader is about setting a good example. Good leaders lead from the front. They are the change they want to see in the world. It is not that they are never afraid, but that they do not let their fear stand in the way of doing what they believe to be right and best. Be the best you can be. We have been given this opportunity, not our choice, but an opportunity nonetheless. The Chinese character for the word “crisis” has the root character for opportunity in it. In traditional Chinese, the characters 危 機 are frequently invoked in Western motivational speaking as being composed of two Chinese characters signifying “danger” and “opportunity” respectively, or more accurately “a changing point”. These times are changing points for us all, whether we like it or not. The Roman philosopher Seneca wrote that calamity is virtue’s opportunity. Recognize and take advantage of the opportunities that present themselves. Use them to grow, develop and make a better world for yourself, your family and your community. We are all in this together. A good leader knows that with the correct heart and mind, we realize that when one of us grows, expands and improves, we all do. Help the world, starting with yourself. Be the leader we all need right now. As we cannot stop this pandemic and the changes that come with it, embrace them and be the shining example you have always wanted to be. At least use this opportunity to better yourself and the leading will take care of itself. Be safe, healthy and more importantly, blissfully happy. OSU!