What This Pandemic is Begging Leaders to Look At

All eyes are on the leader when a crisis hits. Then the questions start flying in.

What just happened?

Is everyone okay?

Now what?

It’s normal for leaders to focus attention on the emergency. Someone needs to rally people together to stabilize the situation, assess for damage, and push ahead with a wise response.

Think about it…

No one wants to be on a plane, 35,000 feet in the air with one engine on fire and a flight crew sitting in silence.

No one wants to ride in an ambulance with a heart attack victim and an EMT that’s doing and saying nothing.

And, no one wants to live in a world filled with a super-contagious global virus and government leaders who quietly hope it will just go away.

On the other hand…

It turns out that no one wants to be led by leaders in a crisis if that’s all they see and speak up about.

Consider this, maybe what this pandemic is begging leaders to look at isn’t just the immediate issue, but the pre-existing conditions that get amplified as a result.

There’s no question that the onset of COVID-19 has unearthed some new challenges for organizations, teams, and leaders. However, it’s also clear that the novel coronavirus can’t be blamed for everything leaders are encountering. This pandemic has placed a spotlight on realities that existed long before the crisis hit.

If you had communication and public relations gaps, that’s likely worse now.

If you had client loyalty concerns, that’s likely worse now.

If you had fluctuating finances, that’s likely worse now.

If you had siloed departments, that’s likely worse now.

If you had frustrated team members, that’s likely worse now.

If you had questions about your competence, that’s likely worse now.

Or maybe, instead of being worse now, these pre-existing conditions are just way more obvious since this pandemic walked in the room. Perhaps COVID-19 hasn’t created as many problems as it has highlighted the issues, challenges, dysfunctions, and fears that were already there.

My question to you, and every leader, is simple: Are you willing to look beyond the crisis to see what you needed to address before the calamity came along?

One of the gifts you can bring to the table as a leader in this season is humble, healthy, heartfelt curiosity about reality. Individuals, teams, and organizations can emerge stronger and will transform the world around them. This will require you to admit that this pandemic didn’t create all your problems, won’t make pre-existing conditions go away, and isn’t license to let leaders off the hook for dealing with organizational dysfunction. If you’re open to it, recognizing how this pandemic amplified reality can be a game changer during a season of unprecedented disruption.

Don’t miss the opportunity to discover what this pandemic is begging leaders to look at. Here are five practical ways to see reality as a leader with your organization and team…

  1. Shut up and listen.

I know, we’re not supposed to use the “S-word” but a lot of leaders – including me – need this blunt reminder right now. Ask lots of questions and then listen at least twice as much as you speak. 

  1. Be vulnerable and empathetic.

It’s not helpful to show up as a hot mess all the time with your team, but it’s annoying when leaders pretend they have it all together when they obviously don’t. Slow down. Share from the heart. Serve people in your care. Find ways to connect about what you’re all feeling and experiencing before problem-solving.

  1. Challenge your team to act like one.

Don’t give an inspiring “all-for-one and one-for-all” speech; call out where you see your team not acting like a team right now. Help them hear how each person matters to you, and to each other’s success. Discuss each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Open up about what a win looks like during a crisis and commit to it as a team.

  1. Show up “as is” with current constituents.

People will remember how you showed up during the pandemic. Don’t be another anxiety-riddled leader that’s freaking out about finances and forward momentum. Be yourself. Be human. No one needs you in a three-piece suit on Zoom. For now, be present with the people you’re already connected to—they need you and trust you.

  1. Tackle one pre-existing condition at a time.

Taking on the whole pandemic will most likely tank you and your team. Instead, get leaders around you to list culture-killing issues, look for patterns, decide which are pre-existing conditions in your organization, choose the most pressing one, and then work on it together for the next 60-90 days.

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