Apr 23, 2020

Thinking human leadership each and every day

We all know we’re operating in desperate times. We’re reminded of it minute by minute, hour or hour. We can’t underestimate the pressure of time, pace and contradictory demands placed on leaders, alongside having to make decisions based on rapidly changing and conflicting data.

Easier to say than to do I know, but there’s never been more necessity to think well, think creatively, think collaboratively, diversity of thought matters. None of us know all of the answers. Who wants to be that type of leader who thinks they know it all? Even our greatest experts themselves are divided. We all know the focus needs to be on critical priorities and being clear on what needs to happen now and for the medium term, once the pandemic subsides. This is temporary. This time will pass.

McKinsey in their understated yet impactful style talk of the five stages that organisations must address to respond to the crisis with ‘deliberate calm’ and ‘bounded optimism’ before reimagining the next normal. Their five calls to act in ‘this imperative of our time’ – resolve, resilience, return, reimagination and reform.

Leadership for me is all about relationships and learning, it’s about asking great questions, doing your best possible thinking, challenging assumptions and truly taking what little time you can afford to think and reflect. I am well aware of the irony of reflecting at pace right now, that’s where ‘deliberate calm’ describes it so well. It’s the thinking and the collaboration with others that will enable us to do the right things that will resolve issues now and have the most impact on the next normal, however long that paradigm lasts.

Clarity of thought results in clarity of decisions and clarity of communication whilst we reimagine what the future looks like? What do we remobilise? Where? When? As importantly, what do we not? What do we need to do? Who do we need to be as a business coming out of these times?

Along with clarity of communication comes connection. Leaders that connect, leaders that have the courage to be human; helping people, serving people. Leaders who are human don’t put on an act. Like so many of us they are open about their flaws, insecurities, mistakes and fears. They make us feel human, because that’s what we are. Normal human beings doing some extraordinary things right now.

One of my coaching clients, a truly human operational leader was thinking today about experiencing such ‘extreme highs and incredible lows’ whilst serving some of the most vulnerable and most under- represented groups in our society. She acknowledged that whilst things had stabilised a little, every single day there’s fresh and unexpected challenges. We paused for a moment whilst she concluded it was a miracle many of her people are able to deliver the services required right now. That in itself, people doing their jobs is enough, It’s more than enough. In fact for me it’s the definition of excellence, so many ordinary people doing extraordinary things.

As we came to the end of our coaching session, we agreed on two fundamentals. Firstly, as relentless as it feels, it’s only a day. There’s going to be more, some good ones and some bad, but it’s only a day. And secondly, more importantly, let’s appreciate the ordinary for the excellence it really is. Let’s make sure every single individual knows how much we appreciate their efforts - day in day out. Because they are the ones we need to help us get through to reimagining what our business is going to become.

For more insights on the leadership challenges in navigating the current climate please take a read: