We are in the midst of a seismic shift—landscape movement so dramatic that we no longer recognize what was previously familiar. We are living through—and in—a global experiment in which we are both the observers and the subjects.
And, through it all, most are seeking two things that are always essential during times of fear and uncertainty: leadership and solutions.
Nationwide (and worldwide), people are now subject to mandatory life restrictions that seemed inconceivable a month ago. Their lives, confidence, hopes and sense of safety have been indelibly impacted.
Despite these conditions, however, colleagues and I have gathered stories from clients of corporate leaders who—in the space of a few days—have come down with harsh, iron glove policies. We’ve heard several stories of corporate dictates distinctly spelling out that those who do not clock 8 hours of work will have their pay docked or their sick and vacation time used. In my experience, such leaders are making a short-sighted mistake.
It’s understandable to an extent—this crisis is a planetary mirror. All of our individual and collective fears are being laid out in front of us. For evidence, we have to look no further than the stock market and it’s violent mood swings. People are scared, both of what is, and what could be.
And, corporate leaders are no different—their individual and collective fears are being reflected as well. Some corporations—and much of the system of capitalism under which we operate and thrive in American society—is predicated on an underlying leverage principle: leaders utilize incentive, reward, cajoling, or leverage to gain the productivity that they need to meet a set of expectations.
Even during a crisis, corporate leadership is often still beholden to expectations to meet productivity standards as if the crisis does not exist—unless they have the foresight to change their expectations in response.
Unfortunately, what we are finding is that many leaders have added an additional level of restriction, all at a time when millions of workers have had to instantaneously shift to virtual work (many of whom had never worked as such before) all while managing the presence partners and children in the home as mandated. And, also while operating under the spectre of potential business closures, layoffs, and an invisible foe that could cause harm or death to those they love most.
To presume and project status quo in the midst of crisis is not just tone-deafness, it’s just plain poor leadership.
What the people of the world need now is a LeaderShift—an evolved method of leadership to consider the needs of the whole organization AND the needs of the individual. The people need Authentic Leadership.
Psychologically, when faced with fear people tend to choose one of three evolutionary responses: fight, flight or freeze. Unfortunately, evidence is building that some leaders are choosing self-immolating, cannibalizing fight against their own people (frequently providing more fear than solutions) during a time when their people are looking for true leadership.
Now is the time for greater trust in, and latitude for, your people, not less.
Rather than directive energy characterized by an absurd, “pay no attention to this crisis, keep moving full speed ahead” approach, true leadership acknowledges that we are all collectively in a state of incubation—incubating an ever-evolving “new normal”—that will emerge from this crisis. What that new normal will look like individually and collectively is unknown. But, whatever it looks like, I can guarantee it will look very, very different than it did before the crisis began.
As was the case after the two most recent crises—the Great Recession and 9/11—“business as usual” will have been sacrificed on the fires of this crisis. And, “leadership as usual” is the kindling for the fires.
This moment in history is a time for true leadership—Authentic Leadership—to rise to the fore.
During this time, what is needed most is more understanding, kindness and compassion, rather than more scrutiny and micromanagement.
In the face of an unprecedented crisis, it will take unprecedented courage for Authentic Leaders to arise. Because Authentic leaders live in the world of “and”, not “or.” They take care of business AND they take care of their people—no sacrificing one for the other.
Authentic Leaders are held—and hold themselves—to a higher standard, but receive the support they need to thrive because they create partners instead of subordinates, collaboration instead of resistance, and pulling-together instead of fractious breakdown. Authentic leadership becomes the catalyst for coming together under pressures, instead of falling apart.
So as an Authentic Leader, what can you do in this crisis?
Practice compassion, kindness and understanding: We’re all “flying the plane as we’re building it.” Have compassion and patience with your clients/customers, staff, partners, investors, family and yourself as we all figure this out, together.
Trust Your People: Those who work with you want to keep their part of the work agreement—to provide their talents in support of work goals. They may not be able to do so in the way that you are familiar with, expect, or want. Trust that they are doing the best they can.
Do No Harm: Ask your people how you can help. If you can’t help, at least do no harm. Recently, the CEO of a Seattle tech company invested the first 5 minutes of her remote staff meetings asking employees to describe their state of mind. More than ever, your people need you to see them as people, to connect with the “human” in human resources.
Create Stability by Communicating Confidence Not Fear/Instability: I repeat—during times of fear and uncertainty, people look for leadership and solutions. Heavy-handed management will simply create more fear, not results. Intense stress is scientifically proven to reduce our IQ by 18-40 points as we move into survival centers of the brain. Right now, many of your people are in survival mode. Support them and offer help until they can rise out of survival.
Create a Flexible 90-day plan: Right now, absolutely no one can predict how long this crisis will last. So, it becomes incumbent upon you as the leader to design a flexible plan that your people can lean into for support amidst the many uncertainties in their lives. For some organizations, the next 90 days will determine if your business exists beyond this crisis, while for some organizations, the next 90 days will revolutionize how you do what you do. But, either way, you need a well-articulated plan. (Note: PS314 can help you quickly create and operationalize your 90-day plan.)
Right now, as we collectively face an uncertain present and an uncertain future—an unknown, unseen, rapidly evolving, nontangible threat—more than ever before we need a leadershift, and for the Authentic Leaders to rise and come forward. Now is your time to shine.
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If you need help creating your 90-Day Plan (or, 90-Day Survival Plan), contact me at Brian@BrianEvansCoach.com for a complimentary coaching call.
About Brian Evans: Brian Evans is the President of Brian Evans Coaching, Inc.—a private coaching practice based in Los Angeles, CA with clients worldwide that specializes in executive coaching, business coaching, transformational life coaching, leadership coaching, success coaching, and mental performance coaching for athletes.
As a coach for more than 15 years, Brian has advised clients as varied as international hockey players, worldwide best-selling authors and speakers, C-suite executives and board members at national organizations, start-up entrepreneurs, YouTube celebrities, sole proprietors, terrorism experts, Mary Kay reps, rocket scientists (astrophysicists), and NFL and NCAA athletes.
His all-time favorite client is the crowned Prince of a Middle Eastern kingdom, whom he coached on how to envision, share and integrate a revolutionary vision of gender-equality policies in the face of a millennium under Sharia Law.