Leading in a Pandemic: Lessons from 2020 by our CEO, Shelley Row

Whew! What a year it’s been. There’s nothing like a world-wide pandemic to put a spotlight on good (and bad) leadership. Here’s my list of leadership observations. What’s yours?

  • Be ready to pivot. Each day I’m impressed by the creativity we’ve seen from workplaces, restaurants, hospitals, schools, and families. We found workarounds in ways that were unimaginable a few months ago. Conferences have gone on, birthdays have been celebrated, work has been accomplished and businesses have adapted. We CAN dig deep for creativity. Let’s remember that.
  • Prove yourself wrong. Before COVID, I maintained that my speaking and training programs HAD to be in person. They were too interactive to be done virtually. I proved myself wrong. What belief did you hold before this that you proved yourself wrong? We can do a lot more than we think we can when we must.
  • Use the data. Science and data matter. They provide a foundation for decision-making. If you know my work on intuition, you may find statement surprising. However, we’ve seen the devastation when we don’t consider the science. Listening to the gut is also important but gut feel requires examination. Science, data, and gut feel are all inputs to a decision. None should be trusted blindly but all should be considered.
  • Words matter. In my work we talk about the importance of “tone at the top.” An individual can overlook that a single voice can sway an organization or jurisdiction, but, indeed, it does and always has. The words of those in authority positions validate us, educate us, inspire us, and move us to action. The words and tone coming from the top matter.
  • Communicate over and over. During periods of uncertainty, over-communicating is key. The brain’s threat response has a hair-trigger and, in the absence of information, quickly weaves a negative story. We’ve seen leaders who communicate frequently and calmly. When there’s nothing new to say, they say, “There’s nothing new to say.” The lesson for leaders: Communicate over and over. When you think you’re done, start over.
  • Human connection matters. As an introvert, I confess that I’ve enjoyed working from home without the hassle of business travel. However, for me, human connection has always been within reach. For many employees, the remoteness over these months feels isolating. The top leaders I work with make a concerted effort to connect with their staff. Even with Zoom, Teams, Slack, people need to feel connected.
  • Appreciate the full ecosystem. Over and over, I’ve been amazed at the spider web of linkages that we share. Never had I considered the impact of a remote workforce on, well, everyone. The shoe repair person in the basement of the now-empty office building, the small take-out lunch counters, the food trucks, the security people, the toilet paper that’s no longer needed in offices but in homes. It goes on and on. No matter the area, our ecosystems are woven so tightly that small ripples impact many. “Supply chain” doesn’t do it justice. It’s more like a “supply web.” Let’s appreciate the effect of our interconnectedness.

2020 will be a year for the history books. Let’s learn from this year and keep the leadership lessons that will serve us for years to come.

What did you learn?

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