Leadership Lessons We Can Learn From Isolation

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Some people may think that the change we are experiencing as a result of COVID-19 is a temporary inconvenience, but it’s much more than that. It’s a wake-up call that we have been living too close to the edge, rushing through precious moments. We have been postponing sustainable practices that can contribute to our wellness and the well-being of the planet. Now that the pandemic has slowed the clock on the daily rush hour and frequent flyer miles, we can see what clean air looks like. Our leadership responsibility, like the air above our cities, is clear.

During a pandemic, successful leaders spend time noticing, appreciating, encouraging, focusing and getting comfortable with leaning and leading into the unknown.

Noticing:

We need to hear the sound of chirping birds,

and notice the gradual opening of summer flowers.

We need to notice neighbors caring about each other,

finding ways to reach out,

and helping each other through challenging times.

Appreciating:

We can appreciate simple things,

like time with each other,

or another day of being well (or getting well).

We can be grateful for those who sacrifice and risk so we can stay well,

and for businesses of all sizes finding new ways of delivering goods and

services to help us through difficult times.

Encouraging:

We can support and encourage each other

because work and life have become more challenging,

and online classes bring additional hurdles to overcome.

Helping each other helps us get through it,

as we change the ways we work and live.

Focusing:

We can stay focused on positive outcomes,

in spite of the continual barrage of bad news that each day brings.

When there is less structure in a work-from-home scenario,

and being an essential worker brings so many risks,

it’s easy to become distracted and fearful.

With so many challenges we must overcome,

we must intentionally focus our time and efforts

on the positive outcomes we’re working toward.

Leaning Into the Unknown:

It takes courage to keep getting up and facing the unknown,

when we don’t know how long this will last.

We don’t know whether or not we will get sick,

and if we do, whether or not we will get well.

Each day is precious.

Leading Into the Unknown:

Leading during a pandemic is moving beyond self-preservation

to guide others to safety.

It’s putting our own mask on first and then assisting others.

While we find our way through this unknown space,

our leadership will determine the outcome for others.

We need to overcome our own fear and shift into sense-making

so that we can guide others.

As messages and data sources conflict, we need to dig deeper

to understand what’s really happening,

and determine the best way forward.

That will be the only way to make sure

that the outcome for us and for others is positive.

What I hope is that we take this new fully-present comfort-with-the-unknown that we are learning with us for the rest of our lives, and when the threat of the pandemic has waned, that we continue to apply it in our leadership as if every day mattered.

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