I have never thought of becoming a leader as an exceptional process, an independent part of a person’s life, but rather, just as a stage in life of becoming a unique and completely developed person. I have always argued that to be a good leader, one has to be a good person. Under this axiom, a bad person can never be a good leader.
Our current experiences are having a huge impact on our lives, both personally and professionally. No doubt that many will emerge from this confinement different people. The question is, who will we be? Will we emerge as good people? Good leaders? Will we be wiser? Stronger? Can we rise up as more resilient and proactive people?
What does this situation require?
We are like a lost child in a forest; unsure what direction to go for safety and protection. On one hand, we have pain for the loss of so many loved ones. In many cases we cannot even comfort them in their last moments, which greatly hinders the mourning process. On the other hand, there’s fear and uncertainty for our own future. What will happen tomorrow? What about our jobs, our community (as we now know it), our own life and that of those around us? Everything is being questioned, and so much has changed. It is bewildering.
Facing this scenario, this chaos, we must not allow ourselves to be carried away by currents of fear and frustration. We must stop and reflect. This terrible disease is sounding a very clear signal. It is alerting us to stop, to reflect, and to find a way to learn from, to grow from, and to be better because of this horrific situation. (As the saying goes: That which does not kill us makes us stronger!)
I have 3 general areas of reflection, I personally examine each day, which I would like to share with you now.
First of all, what are my priorities?
We live in an era of immediacy. We want everything now, and we want everything done quickly. Also, things don’t seem to last, things expire fast. All this makes it very easy to lose perspective of the really important things over urgent things. What is most important to me? My family. Do I spend enough time with my family? Do I spend quality time with them? Am I attentive and caring in my conversations? Am I a happy person, and desirable to be around?
This current diversion gives us the opportunity to ask ourselves these and other important questions about our priorities in life. We can review our decisions, our actions, (or lack of action!) our beliefs, and our way of living. Perhaps some of us, when all this is over, will redirect the course of our lives, and adjust our priorities, and accordingly, our behaviors.
Second, what can I anticipate?
Throughout my life, both personally and professionally, every time I have experienced a negative event, such as an illness, a death, an accident … I have always wondered, “what could I have done to avoid this?”
Anticipating problems is the key to avoiding them or getting them resolved in the best possible way. We need to be more attentive to our environment. We need to see things, to know how to listen and understand what is happening around us. We must be aware of the impact that our decisions -or non-decisions- have on the world, no matter how small they may seem.
Science describes this as the Butterfly Effect and, in our increasingly interconnected society, this impact becomes more tangible. What if we had closed the borders earlier? What if we had provided our citizens with masks? How could we have helped others become aware of how dangerous it is sooner, and how they could reduce the risks of contracting it? What if our health system had been stronger?
In this case, as in many others, the way to anticipate and prepare ourselves for what comes next is to listen, listen to science, including the scientists who warn us of the dangers of not respecting nature. Look at the experiences and examples of others, of other countries-and learn from them. Use logical thinking and “if…then” scenarios. Returning to the first reflection, we then must prioritize people’s lives and well-being, versus the economic benefits or costs. We must be wary of giving priority to short term actions, over long-term benefits. We must not squeeze all the juice out of the world for ourselves. We must nourish it for those who are yet to come.
Third, What is my legacy?
This third reflection is interconnected with the previous one. That ‘nourishment’ that we must provide to our world is based on something very easy to see but very difficult to carry out.
Namely, to do things well. It seems obvious, but many companies and leaders are usually more concerned about financial gains and results than in a job well done. The goal cannot be to be the biggest, or the lowest manufacturing cost, or to beat my competitors at all costs… we need to provide quality and add value to our society in all we do. That must be our standard… providing excellence is a worthy legacy.
We must listen to the needs of society and focus our activities on meeting those needs. This is not a utopia; this is about what will happen in the very near future. Right now, people have a greater social conscience and awareness of ecology, equality between men and women, responsible and sustainable consumption. These are examples of areas we must adapt to in this new and exciting era, or we will become outdated and obsolete.
The crisis that is striking us, highlights the fact that we are just passing through this earth life. We will pass away, but everything we did or did not do, everything we said or did not say, will be printed as our ‘trail’, and will become our indelible mark and our example that we leave to the world. It will become our legacy. We are building it every day and should be doing so in a thoughtful and conscientious way.
And now how are we going to achieve all this?
Perhaps one of the ideas that we have seen most repeated, when analyzing this crisis, is that we are social beings, that we need each other because together we are much stronger and together, we find purpose.
Our society allows us to be more connected than ever before with the Internet, and technologies such as video conferencing … but this connection must be real, sincere, thoughtful. We have the tools at our disposal that make it easier for us to combine our personal and professional projects (this crisis has made telework possible for many people). With the tools and technologies, with this combination of our projects, and this commitment to our priorities, the intrinsic motivation to generate change arises.
The role of the leader is clear, we must actively listen, understand and genuinely connect with our teams. Empathy is essential. People expect a new language, more authentic, more personal language, including the language of emotions.
Good leaders will be those who understand this change, who adapt to and even create more positive changes. They are those who care about people beyond financial benefits. Good leaders will be those who commit to a job well done, and good leaders are those who encourage others to individually forge their future and live their legacy, and by so doing, they design for themselves a significant personal legacy.
Use reflection, use anticipation, and be resilient, for THAT is the key to facing this situation. Let’s make the best out of the worst!