Leadership in Scary Times

By Ann Elliott

map of the world compass

Leadership is at a premium in scary times. Worldwide events in early 2020 demonstrate the importance of strong leadership from the local level to the international stage. For example, Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand, has led her country of five million through the coronavirus pandemic with empathy and strength.  

With so much at stake in a crisis, it is crucial for the people to trust their leader. The way ahead is uncertain and difficult. For people to be willing to do the hard things, they must be confident in the integrity of their leader. To garner trust, it must be earned. People can handle the truth. Facts matter.

An important element is that the leader cares about the travails of the ones she is leading. Having a heart is not a weakness. It is a strength. Empathy profoundly conveys the message, “I understand, and I am standing with you shoulder to shoulder.”

Where to start in leading in scary times? The following strategies can support your planning, innovation, communication, and action as your team, and you traverse the unchartered territory ahead.

  • Assess your situation objectively and accurately. The facts are always friendly. If you do know where you stand, how can you make good choices going forward? This current global crisis will expose weaknesses in your business. The coronavirus has exposed the under belly of societies around the world.
  • Put your attention on what you have and be grateful for this. You can be sure there are many others in much worse circumstances than you are.
  • Understand that your world and everyone else’s has been irrevocably changed. There is no getting back to normal. The world has shifted. Now what?
  • Ask what can I do to help? There are opportunities for your company and you to be of service that were unavailable to you previously. Take care of others.
  • Take care of yourself. A weakened leader is of little value and we need strong leaders now. This includes asking for help. You do not have all the answers. As Mr. Rogers would say, “Look for the helpers.”
  • Appreciate people filling essential roles that keep things moving even though they are often hidden and taken for granted. Where are these folks in your company? In your neighborhood? In your family?
  • Focus your attention on your progress not how much there is remaining to do. What have you done today to improve your circumstance? The past and the future are mental constructs. Spending your mental energy on the past or the future, robs you of what you can create now.
  • Focus on what is available now. Begin to rebuild on the resources at hand. Not only does your confidence grow as you experience one small success and then another, but the path forward becomes clear.

These uncertain, frightening times are forever etched in our memories. We are irrevocably changed because of it. We have an opportunity to chart a new path. Leadership in scary times makes for people who are stronger, wiser, and kinder. I am sure of it.

© 2020 Ann Elliott

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Ann Elliott

Ann Elliott, founder of The Berkana Company, excels at leadership strategy

An expert at helping business leaders enjoy more profits and improved productivity with less stress, she blends fun and excitement with executive coaching and training to yield results for her clients.

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