By: Susan Mahoney
As we watch the world’s leaders attempt to manage the COVID-19 pandemic, we can see how careers and reputations can be made or broken depending on how a leader manages a crisis. During this time, corporate leaders are facing the same scrutiny and challenges as government leaders. All of our leaders are being called to rise to the moment.
However, let’s take leadership down to a more personal and immediate level.
Leadership is not only for those with a title. Leadership is an everyday act that each of us can perform.
Each day, our words and actions determine how we and others perceive our leadership capabilities.
So, how do you want to be seen as a leader? At the end of a crisis, how do you want to be measured as a leader? At the end of your life, how do you want to be spoken about as a leader?
This timely topic of leadership is personal for me. My father passed away a few weeks ago. My gift to him was to present a eulogy about his remarkable leadership attributes. It took a long time to write it, and the process was both healing and inspiring. I want to share a few key ideas with you that are especially relevant at this moment.
So, how did my dad’s thinking shape his leadership capacity? As a Fortune 500 corporate leader, he was always an optimist. He always saw the possibilities. He had an entrepreneur’s heart grounded in his solid values and ethics. During times of business crisis, he was accessible, calm, consistent, and sure-footed. As a father, friend, and community activist, his inclusive leadership was always visible. When I think about his leadership, several pillars come to mind that he lived each day of his life and that we all should aspire to incorporate into our own lives.
My dad wasn’t afraid to embrace new ideas and step into the unknown both in his career and in his life. He also encouraged others to do the same. When any of us hesitated on our paths, he was always encouraged us—particularly his daughters. He helped us feel that fear – and do it anyway.
How do you show courage in your everyday acts of leadership? How does the world witness your courageous leadership?
Dealing with Uncertainty
This current crisis illustrates the need for a leader to be able to manage through uncertainty and apply past lessons to current situations. Clarity comes from finding a close comparison.
Stakeholders need a vision of recovery that is grounded in previous lessons learned and predictions for the future.
While many leaders default to a command and control leadership style during a crisis, that’s not what’s needed. My dad was an agile learner, and I observed his ability to work through a crisis with a vision of the future for all of those impacted.
How is your learning agility? What do you need to learn about past crises to communicate positively through a current crisis?
He didn’t blame, and he accepted responsibility and ownership for his actions. This pillar is critical today.
During times of crisis, watch the leaders who assume accountability and those who blame.
When things go wrong, how are you modeling accountability with others?
Great leaders are open to learning more about themselves and the world around them. My dad was a lifelong learner and encouraged others to continue to learn. His love of learning, innate curiosity, and pursuit of travel and adventure can live within all of us.
How does your life demonstrate your curiosity? How do you encourage curiosity in those you influence?
The word human and humility both come from the Latin root of humus, meaning earth. To be humble means to have both feet planted firmly on the ground. The higher you go in life, the harder it can be to keep your feet planted. My dad never lost his capacity to be humble.
How does your humility inspire others?
Service to others
My dad had solid commitments to his family, his business, customers, his church, and his community. One of his long-term customers wrote: “He set a very high bar for the rest of the suppliers we dealt with. He would come to our facility to see the people who used his products and see for himself how things were going. Of course, he was a very smart man and always came with donut holes from Duncan Donuts, and ALWAYS a special box for the folks in Accounts Payable.”
How do you perform acts of service regularly?
His word mattered. A neighbor wrote: “He was a moral and ethical man. I always relied on his sound reasoning and judgment.”
How do you live your word?
He touched and inspired so many people’s lives. And part of his inspirational gift was that he was very persuasive. Something we all learned when he wanted us to do something that we didn’t want to do.
How is your messaging inspiring people to do their best—even when no one is looking? How are you channeling your persuasive abilities towards positive goals?
We don’t often think of love as a leadership quality. It can sound a bit woo-woo to many. But in the end, it’s what matters most, and it was my dad’s foundational core. The love that radiated throughout his life lives on through his family and friends.
How does love permeate your thoughts and actions? How can you work through the fear of showing this emotion in your everyday acts of leadership?
Gandhi famously said, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” The world needs the conscious leader in you now.
Start today with how you think about your own leadership. What changes can you make in your life to step up to the leader that is within you? How you think shapes your leadership. How you act determines how you are measured. We are the leaders we are waiting for. The time to grow into your role as a conscious leader is now!