How would you feel if you knew you were about to embark on the greatest challenge the world had seen in one hundred years? Moreover, said challenge would change the world for the foreseeable future.
I would bet in thinking how you would feel, you didn’t immediately contemplate how you would be better afterwards? Last week I ran a Linkedin post with video asking, “How will you be better coming out of the pandemic?” This week’s Leadership is Personal Report lead article addresses this question in a slightly different way, asking, “Who do you want to be after the pandemic?” Who would have thought that by separating us, we would actually become closer? Rest assured, we will get through this. This too shall pass. But now more than ever, we need real leadership.
I started to say “strong” leadership. But in these times, I didn’t want it confused by what is sometimes displayed as “strength” by leaders; specifically male leaders. That thing that is actually a profound weakness; feigned strength. This type of strength showed up in the data when I was conducting research as head of US Bank’s Private Client Group’s product development division. In this instance, the data showed the manifestation of how we rear boys in the US as it pertains to financial advisors. Succinctly the data showed men were reared to be strong at all costs, “Fake-it-till-you-make-it,” even when unsure or unknowing. Girls on the other hand were reared such that vulnerability was acceptable. This manifested in women advisors willingness to say, “I don’t know. But I will find out.” By “real” I do mean “strong” leadership. Not in some blustery way. But smart enough to trust the experts for answers. Thoughtful enough to be empathetic in identifying solutions. Strategic enough to understand there are multiple paths to the new normal which require proper planning. And that every decision has consequences for the world after this pandemic that we are required to be prepared for. We see the world as we are, not as it is. Consequently, we must ensure there are multiple perspectives around the table. Specifically, women as mentioned in one of the four article in this week’s Report.
Now is also the time to see the blessing in all of this. Everyday we would leave our homes heading to work. Maybe greeting the local Starbucks barista while grabbing our favorite mocha, chai latte or coffee. We’d share empty pleasantries with passers by or colleagues on the way to our offices. We traded these empty words like Monopoly money. “Good morning.” “How’s it going?” Neither party really leaning in. It was often surface at best if we are being honest. We would hold conference calls equally across the country as we would across a few floors in the same building. Today? When we ask “How’s it going?” oh we mean it. We are all dealing with this differently and we have a new found care for one another. We want to ensure our colleagues are actually doing ok. We are reminiscing over old posted vacation photos. We miss the ability to simply head to the airport and hit an island. We miss our liberties that were taken for granted daily. Today was particularly sobering. It was bad enough to have to cancel my trip to The Bahamas for a conference. Far worse to learn that one of the men running for office had passed away as result of COVID-19. My heart bleeds for his family. Our humanity is being put front and center unlike we’ve ever seen. Weekly Zoom happy hours with friends we’d typically see once a year. People’s desire to truly connect over Zoom with co-workers unlike before. Connection is the silver lining of this harrowing ordeal.
While today’s pandemic problem is one of math and science, what it has done for leadership is to remind us all why connection is paramount. Human beings are creatures of connection. I understand this all too well. My leadership model has not changed for today’s times. It has always been one of people and connection. I don’t care what business you’re in, you’re in the business of people. And to wade through these tough times, to keep everyone grounded and their heads in the game, you’d better be able to connect. “Leadership is Personal. And it starts with you.”
Leader, the buck stops with you. Who are you as we wade through this? Who will you be on the other side of this? Allow me to assist.