No one planned for such an enormous change in the way we interact, the way we work and the way we live. While we often reviewed scenarios around natural disasters, fires and computer attacks, we never fathomed that a pandemic would close down our offices, our restaurants and our stores and have such a profound impact on the way we live and interact.
But, there we went, and here we are. In this time of great uncertainty, the difference is leadership. These times are when we will see who can stand up with flexibility, innovation and resiliency. We can’t control all circumstances, but leaders recognize what they can control and fill the abyss created by social distancing with new tools and new strategies. When we contemplate our new, hopefully temporary, paradigm, we can see the valuable support that can come from a leader who steps in and provides a new sense of normalcy and support.
For some leaders, reacting is natural. Some leaders require a moment to reflect and evaluate, and some need coaching to recognize the new paradigm. As the crisis of the pandemic first unfolded, I was taken aback. I was in a constant state of panic, overwhelmed by the weight of decisions that seemed literally to be life or death. I was paralyzed by the weight of decisions until I realized that the seeds of leadership had been planted all around me for many years. I finally had two realizations: I had good leaders around me, and we were all struggling to find the right answers.
Four weeks into our new reality, we have learned new skills; become our own IT support; developed a new language, including Zoom meetings and social distancing; and worked to balance the reality of work at home, school at home and stay at home.
Leaders step in when needs are not being met. Based on my limited experience as a quarantined leader, here are some tips to help you survive:
Connect with your peers, with your supervisors and with your employees. My network would constantly stop by my office so we could share in real time. Real-time sharing today needs a purposeful connection. Reach out more!
Seeing a face on a screen beats only hearing a voice. We have great technology. Most of us had it before, but now it’s our lifeline. Use it generously.
Once I realized that I was not alone in trying to figure out this change, it felt like a great weight was lifted. Be sure to share the good and the bad. It’s tough to balance change, others’ schedules, loneliness and confusion all at once. We are all feeling it. Share your struggle and your success.
Be the Light
There is light at the end of the tunnel. We may go through darkness, but we will come out. Leaders help point the way through the darkness. Be supportive, be present and be assuring. There will be an end to this crisis.
Leaders, too, will be frustrated, short-tempered, scared and tired. Be real about where you are and the impact these feelings have. Be healthy by taking breaks, going for walks, and shutting off your computers and email after work.
Now, more than ever, we need leaders — not just in government and public health, and not just the heroes on the front lines serving food, delivering products, producing goods and saving lives. We need leaders in our communities and in our companies, on the floor and in home offices. Fill that gap, and be proactive.
One of my managers recently commented that the separation is forcing his staff to be more purposeful and direct in how they communicate. We are all learning new skills. How you and your team members come out of this crisis will depend on how you, as a leader, purposefully direct the chain of events that will lead you toward your new paradigm and reality.
It’s a great time to be leader, so step up!