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Leaders are being faced with the greatest challenges of their lifetime as the world is united with fear and uncertainty. When anything is unified, it is amplified, so leaders are being called to step in and shift the uncertainty into new opportunities. 

It’s make or break time, so here are just some tips to help you navigate the crisis and find ways to breakthrough.

Are you ok?  – Isolation is new to everyone. It can be a rollercoaster of emotion as we navigate new ways of engaging with ourselves and others. Mental and physical health is the number one priority so being aware of your thoughts and feelings is critical. On the flip side, isolation is also a great opportunity to take your health and wellbeing to a whole new level. Take yourself deeper. If you do it well, it will give you an edge.

Listen to what is not being said – Your teams are being impacted at an emotional level. Some are more resilient than others, but rest assured, no one is immune to the psychological impact of the current climate. Many of your people will show a brave face, so it’s important to listen for what is not being said. Tune into the anxieties of others and surface them in a real and compassionate way. Be attentive to what others may need from you and respond. Make your people your top priority.

Stay true to mission – If the mission is set well, it will inspire and serve the current situation. Staying focused on the mission will keep hopeful and positive minds on the future, while dealing with the reality of the moment. You will be glad when you can reflect back on this time and say, ‘we did it, and we kept on mission’.

Stay purposeful –  I was asked by a friend how I stay so motivated during such times, my answer was simple, I have a purpose. Bring your teams together to reflect on your company’s purpose. Or even more importantly, elicit the individual purpose of others. If you can begin to understand their deeper motivations, you will begin to create new meaning that could very well set a new tone for your culture. This crisis is forcing people to focus on what really matters, so why not hear from others and reset what really matters for the company too.

Revisit ways of working – With many people working from home, it’s important to encourage the freedom while being creative and productive. As many companies struggle to transition to remote working, measuring how people deliver remotely can be useful, and can enforce new ways of working for the future with greater trust and accountability. It will be a challenge, but it will also be the new way

Pioneer – These are perfect conditions to seek out new pioneering ideas so long as you have protected the downside. During this particular crisis, the streets and slate are literally clean! It may be the ideal time to be super entrepreneurial and motivate your teams to step it up with their big ideas and begin to test them against new conditions and assumptions.

Don’t delegate the tough decisions – The biggest mistake any leader can make is delegate the tough calls, not just in a crisis, but anytime! As a leader it is so important, we live and breathe the full emotional experience that comes with the position of leadership. If you are fully accountable, empathetic and act with integrity on the tough calls, your people will notice, and they will become accountable themselves. 

When it comes to layoffs, do the right thing – In my early career I would have many sleepless nights with the responsibility of layoffs. I would always challenge my colleagues and ask, have we done enough? So, ask yourself, has your company gone all the way to help support the hardship both financially and emotionally? Has the process been thought through and carefully executed? Your people won’t remember why they were laid off so much as they will remember how. If poorly executed, layoffs will be detrimental to the culture. If done well, you will protect your culture and retain greater talent in the long run.

Work through fear – Working through individual and collective fears each day is both cathartic and important. It will ensure the concerns of others are heard, distilled and supported. Encourage your teams to be honest and transparent about their fears and work them through carefully. If you can distill fear, you can ignite passion, and passionate minds focused on the other side of the crisis is what will drive new momentum.

Keep it real – People are suffering, so an overly positive outlook on the future may not land well with everyone, nor will a dire perspective that further facilitates the impact of what is happening. It’s important to stay focused on the opportunities without downplaying the realities that are being faced in the now. Just keep it real and keep it real-time.

Leading through unsettling waters is one of the greatest challenges and privileges of leadership. 

There is no perfect way to steer, but there is a strength of character that is needed to endure and there is a deeper sense of meaning that will help shape a new future. If as a leader you are not experiencing tremendous challenge, burning excitement and your own deep personal transformation during this time, then it’s time to assess and ask yourself – am I really breaking through?  

I would love to hear your stories on how you are breaking through with your leadership.

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